Craig Brewer in local gay bar and David Banner plays a bottom

Memphis bred writer/director of Oscar winning “Hustle & Flow“, Craig Brewer, held a premiere event for his latest film Black Snake Moan starring Samuel L. Jackson, Christina Ricci, and Memphis’ own Justin Timberlake last Thursday. The event was held at the Muvico at Peabody Place where local press and fans alike gathered like piranha for a close up of the cast and to congratulate the homegrown success who has made a tradition of filming his nationally released movies in Memphis.

Memphis’ rap royalty, Three Six Mafia, has Craig to thank for their history-making performance during last year’s Oscars as the first African American hip hop group to win the award for Best Song and as the first hip hop artists to ever perform during the televised ceremony.

After making headway past local newscasters and flashing cameras, Craig explained to Out & About why he continues to make films in Memphis. Working with a real budget and a professional camera now instead of his little camcorder, he says that he could easily make movies in a studio on a soundstage with California type actors but “we [Tennesseans] know how to move, we know how to sweat.” When asked about the supposed challenge in securing big names like Sam and Justin to be part of the film, Brewer said that Sam (Samuel L. Jackson) read the script and was all over it, and Christina auditioned well, beating out a lot of other actors for the part. Brewer revealed the motivation behind his films and how they are all connected, describing Hustle and Black Snake as being part of a music series. “I’m trying to do all these movies from music genres of the South that I’m inspired by. I did the rap movie, I did the blues movie, and now I gotta do the country music movie.” The country movie Brewer alludes to is titled Maggie Lynn. Raised on “outlaw country” like Merle Haggard and Charlie Pride, Hank Williams Jr. and Willie Nelson, Brewer says Maggie Lynn was inspired by the music of his youth and will tell one woman’s story as she tries to get back into county music. Filming will begin soon in Nashville with the movie’s release reportedly scheduled for the Christmas season.

“I’m Rich!” were the first words we heard from rapper David Banner on the red carpet. The Jackson, MS native appears in a supporting role in Black Snake Moan as Tehronne, a pimp (hustler) with a soft spot for Rae (Christina Ricci). His first scene in the film, exploiting Banner’s undeniable bristling sexuality, is only the beginning of the ride the film takes us on. Asked about his character’s role in the film, Banner responded “He’s Christina Ricci’s bottom!”--clapping his palms together in simulation. Don’t expect any chart-topping singles (a la “Like a Pimp”) on the soundtrack though. Despite recent contributions to soundtracks for 2 Fast, 2 Furious and See No Evil, Banner insists that he tries to separate his music and movie careers due to the stereotypes associated with his genre of music. “I really want to be respected as a great actor—and I’m still learning.” Banner can next be seen in This Christmas opening Christmas 2008, with production to begin soon on Live 2 Tell in LA.

In addition to the premiere, Craig received several surprise honors, with Congressman Steve Cohen declaring February 22 Craig Brewer Day, mayor of Shelby County AC Wharton naming the intersection of Third and Peabody “Craig’s Corner”, and Craig bestowed the title “Colonel of Tennessee”. By his own admission, Craig was dressed for the title (coincidently) in a black cowboy hat with sunglasses, a black suit with a black velvet jacket, studded black boots, and a black tie with a sun star shaped diamond tie clip. I asked him where I could find a matching tie clip to which he humbly replied, “Where all expensive bling comes from—Macy’s for about 25 bucks.” The colonel told a seated audience eager to see the film that Atlanta beat Memphis in ticket sales for Hustle & Flow and that he didn’t want to see the same for Black Snake because he’s sick of Atlanta “beating Memphis at shit!”

I asked Craig if he would ever consider making a GLBT film in Memphis or elsewhere:

Brewer: Well, I’ll tell you what though man, it’s too bad, cause you remember the hottest show was J-Wags. Remember that? That was like 2:30 at night, you go to J-Wags and have the most incredible show. There could’ve been—you know, that could be a really great film somebody could make, especially in the South.

J-wags is Memphis’ oldest gay and lesbian neighborhood bar, and its doors are still open. Feel free to draw your own conclusions. Black Snake Moan opens in theatres nationwide this Friday, March 2.

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo

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