by Allison Horton
Filming a movie in one of the most dangerous and violent places in the country, Brooklyn’s Van Dykes Houses, wasn’t easy, said Antoine Fuqua, director of “Brooklyn’s Finest,” which opens March 5. Not due to crime or violence, but politics.
“Police and government officials told me if I go in there I am on my own,” he said. “I had to fight the system to get in there and to bring [the actors] into the hood so the kids can see and be a part of a positive experience like making a movie. It was challenging.”
Fuqua said he was happy to cast hundreds of the housing project residents in “Brooklyn’s Finest,” which follows the lives of three Brooklyn police officers who are involved in a massive drug operation. The cast is comprised of notable veteran actors Wesley Snipes, Don Cheadle, Richard Gere and Ethan Hawke. Fuqua previously worked with Hawke when he directed the 2001 film, “Training Day,” which actor Denzel Washington won an Academy Award for best actor in a leading role.
Fuqua and co-star Wesley Snipes recently visited Chicago to promote the film. Fuqua said he was impressed with the script written by first-time African American screenwriter, Michael Martin, a former construction flagger in the New York subways. Martin was born and raised in the Brooklyn projects.
“It allowed me to tell a story that directly affects the hood from another perspective,” Fuqua said. “By showing the pressures police officers are under and the choices they make that directly affect us.”
Fuqua and Snipes have tried to work together for 10 years but conflicting schedules and commitments hindered them until now, Snipes said.
“I wanted to work with Antoine Fuqua,” Snipes said. “When he told me who the cast would be that made it even more attractive. To be in an ensemble with strong and very talented artists and him at the helm was a good move for me.”
In the film, Snipes plays Caz, a former street kingpin who returns to the streets after an eight-year jail sentence. He looks for help from Tango, played by Don Cheadle, whose life Caz saved while in prison.
“He returns realizing the error of his ways and not wanting to be back in the game again,” Snipes said of his character. “He wants to move on to a better life but he needs that one last deal.”
While shooting “Brooklyn’s Finest,” it was hard to escape references to one of Snipes’ most memorable movies, “New Jack City.”
“They kept calling me Nino,” he said. “It was hard to shoot sometimes. You are trying to shoot a scene and they would scream, “Nino.”
Snipes said the neighborhood embraced him with people often inviting him to dinner at their homes. From guys playing chess on the corner to children sitting in the director’s chair, crowds of hundreds formed to watch Snipes on the set, Fuqua said.
“To watch the reaction to him was pretty amazing,” Fuqua said. “I had to find him sometimes. I was like, ‘Where is Snipes?’” He would be over at someone’s house and I would have to send someone to get him. It was all love.”