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Outta-sighteous! Michael Jai White, star of Spawn and Kill Bill, has created Black Dynamite, one bad mutha… {shut your mouth}, the hero the 1970’s forgot.  White and director Scott Sanders gave us the low-down on their outrageous blaxploitation comedy, one of the highlights of the Tribeca Film Festival.  The duo shared insights about the magic of Super Bad, unearthing Arsenio Hall, and the man, the myth, the muse called Jim Brown.


Can you dig it, baby?  Solid.


Black Dynamite

Michael Jai White & Scott Sanders


The Lady Miz Diva:  Where did the idea for this hilarious film come from?

Michael Jai White:  It started with me.  I was in Bulgaria doing a movie called Undisputed and I was listening to my Ipod, and along comes James Brown’s Super Bad, then I got the idea for this character and this movie.  After I got home, I rented some old costumes and shot some pictures.  Scott and I have wanted to work together for so many years and looked for a project to work on.  He asked me what I was up to, I told him I was fleshing out the idea for this character and I showed him the pictures and he just kinda went nuts.  At that point, we just went ahead.

Scott Sanders:  We just shot a trailer for about $500, where we took video of Mike and we cut up scenes from other blaxploitation movies.  So, he’d be shooting somebody from 40 years ago and it just became this trailer.  We gave it to our friend Jon Steingart, who produced Thick as Thieves and just based on the trailer he was like, “I can raise the money for this.”


LMD:  I saw Fred Williamson enter a hotel lobby once.  He realised he was being watched and his entire walk changed.

{MJW & SS Laugh}

SS:  I’ll bet!


LMD:  In movies like Shaft, Truck Turner and Three the Hard Way, the heroes have a definite physicality; they don’t just stand there, they pose.  Were you conscious of that playing Black Dynamite?

MJW:  Definitely!  A lot of Black Dynamite is Jim Brown.  Jim Brown was a personal hero of mine; he was the first black Superman action star.  I’m very fortunate to say he’s very, very close to me.  He’s a surrogate father to me; he’s been that way for the last 10 years.  We play chess together and I’ve beaten him only one time.  The man has a brilliant mind in concert with his physicality.  A lot of it was based on Jim Brown, even some things I poke fun at Jim about.  He does the tough guy thing really well, but the whole warm and fuzzy stuff?  When he’s forced to do that in his movies?  He kinda would come off a little funny.

SS:  That’s where I think Mike did really well.  That was my favourite, the physicality of the character – when Black Dynamite has to be tender.  Like when he has to hug somebody and it’s so awkward.

{Both laugh

MJW:  Yeah, the frolicking through the park stuff?  I really got that off of Jim Brown, cos anybody who knows who Jim Brown is, you know he isn’t a “frolic through the park” type of dude.

I though that was pretty funny to let you see the character and what’s going on in the actor’s mind and give glimpses of that.


LMD:  Michael, we know about your love of martial arts.  Can you talk about setting up the fight scenes and did you do your own stunts for Black Dynamite?

MJW:  Oh, yeah, yeah.  I’ve been doing martial arts since I was 8 years old.  The choreography style in this was very 70’s.  One of the styles I have a black belt in is called Shodokan, that was really prevalent in the 70’s, so I kind of brought in that style. And one of my best friends who’s like a brother to me, Ron Yuen, he choreographed the fights along with myself.  It was just fun, nothing you really had to train for, it’s a fun but basic way of fighting.


LMD:  Well, in the big chase scene, I saw you leaping over rooftops, but I’m not sure that was Tommy Davidson with you.

{Both laugh}

SS:  That was Tommy’s stunt guy whose name is Precious.

MJW:  Yeah, I didn’t know how to deal with that.  He’s like, “Yo man, good to meet you man.  My name is Precious.” Precious?  Precious?  I’m not gonna call you that, okay?


LMD:  So what did you call him?

MJW:  Yo!  Seriously, he didn’t change that.  He said, “My grandmother named me that.”  He didn’t change that, though.


LMD:  You have a lot of well-known comedy actors in the film and with all those funny guys, I wondered how much of their dialog is scripted and how much you just let them go?  Also, how did you get Arsenio Hall to play a pimp in the movie?

MJW:  It’s kind of a funny thing, but when Arsenio read the scene that I wanted him to be in, the thing that clinched it for him … he contacted me, he said, “Dude there’s a Captain Kangaroo pimp?  I’m in!”  He dug that.

Pretty much like 90% is scripted.  There’s a few times we would improv.  One of the best improv guys in the world is Cedric Yarborough; his screen time is very short, but very powerful.  That is the one person who makes it really hard for me to keep a straight face.  His line, “But Black Dynamite, I sell drugs in the community,” that came out of him.  He didn’t what he was gonna say and that was one of the funniest lines.

SS:  People who’ve started seeing the movie in the trailers on YouTube, they started going up to him and saying that.  He’s like, “Where’s this coming from?”  He’d forgotten he’d done it.



~ The Lady Miz Diva

April 24th, 2009




Interview conducted at the DirectTV Tribeca Film Festival Press Center



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Exclusive photos by LMD

Film stills courtesy of Sony Pictures





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