Over the weekend, we came across two articles in MetroSource and The Advocate that profile Lee Daniels. They essay the openly gay and black filmmaker from totally opposite POVs and present interesting, yet conflicting images.
Back story: The profiles advance Shadowboxer, the upcoming summer movie where Daniels—the producer of Monster's Ball—for the first time finds himself in the director's chair. If you're not familiar with the subject matter, it's rather .. let's say racy. The story revolves around an incestuous stepmother-son assassin team (Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr.) which continues as she dies of cancer. The two become involved with a pregnant woman whom they were supposed to kill. So far, the reviews have been mixed, mostly due to the rather fantastic storyline and the explicit graphic sex and violence. But, if you are anything like us and loved Tarantino's Kill Bill V1
and v2, you'll want to see this.
The Advocate neutralizes the controversy and minimizes the graphic content, profiling Daniels as artiste and filmmaker and focuses on his casting of Cuba Gooding Jr. "I worked really closely with [Cuba] on his performance. He wanst everyone to like him. We worked on him being very still, very self-contained. He worked very hard in this movie." There's also some great personal background on Lee—"he's been in a relationship for many years and is raising two children with his partner", as well as spiritual philosophy and a sad moment when he reflects on the toll of the AIDS crisis.
MetroSource ignores the subtle runs with high-concept and gay appeal. "My movie is ghetto, Euro and homo," the director is quoted as saying. "It's like Valley of the Dolls meets Scarface," Daniels conceptualized that same phrase just a few months ago in an interview at KeithBoykin.com—which sounds deliciously subversive, because we're huge fans of Jacqueline Susann's trashy gay aesthetic and the ghetto iconic Al Pacino film.
However ... just as the Advocate chose to concentrate more on process and less on the controversial sex and violence, MetroSource heads in the opposite direction. Cuba Gooding Jr is relegated to footnote status in their profiles and more focus is on the specific gay appeal: The Vivienne Westwood costuming and supporting character Stephen Dorff, who may eclipse Cuba because of his "fabulous full frontal" that warranted considerable column inches (pun intended) from the MetroSource editors. "Producer/Director Lee Daniels [brings] a fabulous queer sensibility to this roller-coaster ride and giving the world the gift of the very beautiful, totally nude Stephen Dorff, who, very evidently, has plenty to be proud of." And there's much more about Dorff's "big swinging dick."
FYI, no Cuba frontals, just lots of butt and this is probably no mistake. It's become all-too-common to hear this hyper-praise about the supposed attributes of leading Hollywood actors who go full-frontal—remember when Colin Farrell was supposed to be soo huge? Not. Scott Poulson-Bryant essays this phenomenon in Hung (pages 96 and 96 for those with copies at home) when he questions why black actors are never discussed in these terms, comparing the so-called "Hollywood hung list" to "a list about leading man success, about power." Sure, Cuba may have the Academy Award and is theoretically the leading man, but the editors at MetroSource reminded us that it's all about Dorff.
Shadowboxer opens in June. We'll continue to watch the buzz on this one.
Hey Mister Producer (MetroSource)
Out of the Shadows (Advocate)
Shadowboxing with Lee Daniels (Keith Boykin)