Brooklyn’s Finest: Interview with Director Antoine Fuqua

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Antoine Fuqua is the director of “Brooklyn’s Finest,” starring Don Cheadle, Richard Gere, and Ethan Hawke. The film is being released March 5 by Overture Films.
Another Cop Movie
“I really didn’t want to do another cop movie,” he says. “I've always tried not to get pigeonholed. But when I did Training Day, I was struck by the different pressures that civil servants, especially police officers, are under and how misunderstood they are. I thought Michael had found a new way into the subject. This is not about corrupt officers as much as it is about three people doomed by their own personal issues.”
Fuqua deconstructed the script, focusing on each individual police officer. “The three different stories hit on three different types of pressure that a police officer could be under that would cause them to make bad decisions,” Fuqua says. “To clarify each of them, we literally took the script and broke it down into thirds—one movie about each guy. That way I could look at each story in one fluid motion and not miss little nuances.”
Working with Don Cheadle
Oscarnominee Don Cheadle plays Tango, an undercover cop who longs to return to a more normal life. “Guys like Tango make the best cops,” says Fuqua. “They become what they're chasing. They have the highest conviction records, but they also have the highest red marks for doing the things they shouldn’t do. Tango becomes friends with a criminal. He's not a dirty cop, but he gets too close and has to choose between his job and his friend.”
Cheadle’s innate intelligence and vulnerability give the character the grounded quality that Fuqua was looking for. “I didn’t want Tango to be a tough guy with gold teeth acting crazy,” says the director. “Who cares about a person like that? I wanted audiences to really like this guy and see the difficulty he's dealing with internally.”
Shooting on Location
The script was originally set in another Brooklyn housing project, the Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York. “I wanted to film in the location it was written for,” says Fuqua. “I believe in using real locations whenever you can because it helps me creatively be in the world. It helps the actors really smell it, walk it and be it every day. You got to engage with the people because they bring the energy and authenticity to it.”
Fuqua is himself still a little awed that they managed to pull it off. He gives an enormous amount of credit to the cast and crew. “I put Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke and all of the rest of the cast and crew in the projects with rats and cockroaches and whatever else,” he says. “I put them in situations that were a little dangerous and they were great. They dealt with people coming up to them all day long because they were so excited to see these guys. They just got it done, and you can't ask for anything more than that.”
The Fuqua Film Program
The filmmakers hope to have a lasting impact on Brownsville as well. Their legacy to the community is the Fuqua Film Program, which will train local youngsters in filmmaking. Fuqua, who grew up in the Pittsburgh projects, says, “The worst thing to do is go into a neighborhood like Brownville, show them something and then give them no way to ever achieve it.
“After Training Day, a lot of the guys from the neighborhood tried to find a way into the business, but they couldn’t even figure out how to start,” he says. “It’s hard to come from a place like that and get into the movie business without going to college. I decided if ever I did that again, I would try to start a program that could sustain itself so the kids could learn.
“The idea is to introduce them to the craft of directing, writing, editing, and anything else we can teach them,” says Fuqua. “They can be grips, electricians, wardrobe people, craft services, whatever. They can learn a craft and pursue it.”
As a first step, the filmmakers donated five cameras, Fuqua explains. “Each of the students has to make their own short film. They have to write their own scripts. We hope someday to be able to help them get to college as well.”