Student Now

Movies - Empire


Index | Features | Life | Jobs | Travel | Entertainment | Research | College | Shopping



Empire: Two Worlds Collide

CONTINUED: Interview with Franc Reyes about the new film EMPIRE.

As a Hispanic writer / director, do you only get Latino type projects? Are you looking to "cross over" into general market type projects, like Cuaron (Y tu Mama Tambien) with Harry Potter? Do you think this is an angle that Latin directors should take, or should they be more focused on the Hispanic community?

Right now I'm being offered a cross section of projects. Though I believe Cuaron is a wonderful filmmaker and will probably hit Harry Potter out of the ball park, as a writer I've written a wide spectrum of stories with Latinos in them. If I made a film with a 100% Latino cast, I wouldn't be true to myself and what my life is all about. Art imitating life. Having said that, it also applies the other way. If I made a film with a 100% African American or Caucasian cast, the truth wouldn't be there either. There isn't a story that exists that Latinos along with every other culture can't tell. My cast will always include Latinos because that's who I am. But I live in a wonderful world of cultures and I hope my films will always reflect that.

What were some of the biggest obstacles in making this film?  Did you get any criticism or concerns about misrepresenting the Hispanic community?

There was one time when shooting in The Bronx when a woman (community leader) started to protest about the "perpetuating of stereotypes" on my set and disrupting it. I took the woman to the side and asked her what her problem was. She said she was tired of "Latino gangster movies". I asked her to name one of the many "Latino gangster movies" she was tired of. She mentioned "Scarface." I told her it was directed by Brian De Palma, not from a Latino POV. Then she said "Carlito's Way", I said once again that was De Palma. She then said "Blood In Blood Out." I said that was Taylor Hackford. She became frustrated and started to complain about the Latino images on television, shows like NYPD Blue, Law and Order, etc. I told her the images she was "tired" of are not images written or created by Latinos, that finally she had in me a Latino director shooting a story in our neighborhood and she disrupts "my" set. I gave her a copy of my script and told her to read it and come back to me. I assured her if there were any stereo typical characters in it that I would get rid of them. She came back at the end of shooting day with tears in her eyes and asked me to sign the screenplay for her. I've said all this to say that though I understood her concerns, sometimes we just need to get out of our own way as Latinos. 

Why did you cast Leguizamo to be the lead?

I never thought I could get John Leguizamo. I sent the script to many Latino actors. But many refused to even read it because the lead was a Latino drug dealer. Which didn't make any sense to me. John called after reading the script and asked me how I planned to shoot the film. We went to lunch and spoke about it for hours and the rest is history.

How did you come about to cast Fat Joe? When you wrote the script, did you write his character thinking specifically on Fat Joe for the role? What about with Treach?

When I first wrote the script I wrote it about a guy who couldn't get up from his sofa to have a gunfight. I had Big Pun in mind (Rip). Joe has a smaller frame and he moves fast for a guy as big as he is. But when I spoke to him about the role, he responded positively and did an amazing job. He realized there was more to his character than just a gunfight.

Is Fat Joe in the film to attract the urban / Hip-Hop demographic, or is did you have a specific reason for his casting him in this role? 

When I cast this film, I didn't really think like a marketing person. I wanted the best people for the job. His music took off after we shot the film. A little luck doesn't hurt.

Has your background in music influenced the way you see and understand Hispanic urban cultures?

Absolutely. Someone recently called Empire a Latino "New Jack City". I responded by saying that musically I grew up listening to was Tito Puente, Hector Lavoe and Ruben Blades on one side of the street and Marvin Gaye, Earth Wind and Fire and RunDMC on the other. The Black music influence in my film is obvious. I'm not sure there is any Latino musical influence in "New Jack City", knowing for a fact that the African-Americans in Harlem also grew up on Tito,
Hector and Ruben.

Do you think Empire is a true representation of what it is to grow up and be in the rat race in the Bronx?

For some, not for all. There is no "one film" that can represent an entire people.

Did your music background influence you to involve urban music icons, Fat Joe and Treach, in Empire?

I needed to keep the film as authentic as possible. Some of the actors that auditioned for the Treach role couldn't bring it. I've seen Treach in other films. There was no doubt he can bring it.

Are there any particular scenes in the movie that were directly inspired by, or reflect personal experiences?

A lot of the moments with Carmen (Delilah Cotto) and Victor Rosa (John Leguizamo).

Would you say that Empire personifies the current philosophies and ambitions in the streets of the Bronx?  To what extent does this hold true to other Hispanic neighborhoods (ie East LA)?

Latinos are a very colorful and diversified people with an array of philosophies and ideas with which to challenge our ambitions in life and succeed. Coming from any ghetto, the pitfalls are there. Whether that be the ghettos in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, etc. Empire personifies one slice of life, one that I'm familiar with.

Are the characters in the movie inspired on real life people and experiences?
Yes and No

What made you decide to write Empire?
Desire, ambition, inspiration and desperation.

Back to Interview Page 1

Read more about Empire



Come back soon to see pictures from the official red carpet premiere...

Out on Motown in December includes tracks from:
Mobb Deep
La India
Jon Secada
Luis Fonsi
Angel Lovpes

Official Site

Support Latino Movies


Index | Features | Life | Jobs | Travel | Entertainment | Research | College | Shopping

©2001 COPYRIGHT StudentNow information other notices.