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Empire: Two Worlds Collide


Interview with Franc Reyes about the new film EMPIRE.

Do you think that being both the writer and director for Empire helped the overall outcome of the film? How so, and how is it different from being a director and working with another writer?

This is my first feature and I wrote the script. I've never worked on another writer's project. It absolutely helps the process to be the writer. It's your story and you can take it anywhere you like. The overall outcome of the film derives from your imagination and your imagination alone.

How do you see the future of Hispanic / Latino-themed films in the US in terms of talent, directors, and language? Do you think that it's growing as a separately carved market, or do you see it as crossing over more with mainstream Hollywood films?

There's no doubt about the Latino talent pool out there. Latinos have been a part of the fabric of American Pop culture since the idea of Pop culture began. I was asked recently what I thought of the Latino explosion. I don't believe that the "Latino explosion" in popular culture has begun, with all due respect to J-Lo, Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony etc. If a Latin explosion in popular culture is to happen, it will have to happen across the board -- music, film, art, literature, etc. I believe we're on our way to that happening. I think it's a great time to be a Latino artist/entertainer/writer/director. As far as "crossing over" is concerned, there's nowhere
to "cross over" to. We're already here!

Do you think of John Leguizamo as representative of an certain US Hispanic group (ie, Puerto Rican) or more as generally appealing to all Hispanics?

In Empire John represented the guys I grew up with. In "Moulin Rouge" he represented Toulouse Lautrec, in "To Wong Foo" he represented Miss Chi-Chi Rodriguez. He's Latino. He represents us all well.

What is it like working with John?
The awe I have for John will always be there. His talents are limitless. I'm looking for something else we can do together. Working with him was a like going to class. Directing him was a thrill.

How did you come about to write and direct this film?
I've written many screenplays on many different subject matters. Empire was my attempt at writing a modern day gangster film from a Latino point of view. While in the middle of writing it I realized that only I could bring to the film what it needed as a director to keep the film as authentic as the script, having taken a lot from my experiences in the South Bronx..

What do you think about using Spanglish language on a Hispanic film? Do you think it's appropriate to have an all in English dialogue in a film with Hispanic characters, or do you think it's better to leave certain dialogue in Spanish?

 I think it's a little of everything. Communication is key. You use what you can. The idea is to use language as interestingly as you can.

What do you think are some of the current opportunities for Hispanic directors, and how do you think this film affects those opportunities?

I don't believe with major studios the opportunities are there yet. I shot Empire independently. As of right now I don't know of too many Latino projects being developed at major studios. I tried to shoot the best film I possibly could with the time and money I had. I believe it's a good film. Arenas and Universal took notice -- that in of itself may affect some opportunity.

Continued Interview Page 2

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