In advance of the eagerly-anticipated NWA biopic, some movie theaters decided to enhance their security, while others refused to show the film out of safety concerns (although it doesn’t take much for black films to scare theater owners; they called in armed cops for The Butler, ffs). As it turns out, they should have ordered extra bags to carry all the money they were going to make. The film grossed an estimated $56 million this weekend, with nary a shot being busted at the screen.
The film’s success took Hollywood by surprise, but that kind of commercial success is nothing new for director F. Gary Gray, who is one of the highest-grossing black directors of all time, and “Straight Outta Compton” only figures to move him further up that list.
As it happens, I interviewed Gray in advance of the release of his last film, the gonzo Jamie Fox/Gerard Butler revenge flick “Law Abiding Citizen,” for a men’s magazine that no longer exists. The article is lost to the sands of time, but only featured a few pull-quotes from the interview. The full interview was never published in any form, until now.
It’s a short phoner, but there were a few surprising/interesting revelations in that short time. The first is that in real life, people call him “Gary,” rather than “F” or “F. Gary.” I guess you’d file that under interesting, rather than surprising. What did surprise me was Gray’s reaction to the entire premise of the article my editors wanted me to write: the strong undercurrent of revenge in Gray’s films. They wanted Gray to talk about his five favorite revenge films as a peg for a prize contest to promote the film, but a funny thing happened when I asked Gary why he’s so attracted to revenge flicks: he’d never noticed that. Here’s the full interview, minus a short section near the end that was off the record.
This was my first non-political interview, and my first junket phoner, so I naturally assumed Gray’s publicist was like every other flack in the world, and would actually never get back to me with the list I needed to knit the story together. Pleasantly, I was wrong. Here’s Gray’s list:
Man on Fire
Old Boy (original)
Now that F. Gary Gray is topping the charts once again, you could say he’s getting the best revenge, which is living well.