Friday, August 17, 2012

The Power Team of Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil, Bring A Remake of "Sparkle" To The Big Screen

In 1976, the movie Sparkle became an anthem for little African American girls who had a dream for stardom. 

The movie was about three sisters seeking fame as a singing group.  Their dreams hit a hiccup when the oldest sister, who is nicknamed Sister, becomes involved in drugs.

It starred Irene Cara as the title character, Lonette McKee, Mary Alice, Philip Michael Thomas, Dwan Smith and Dorian Harewood.

circa 1976

It became a kind of cult classic and still remains a favorite among African Americans.

Fast forward to 2012 and the remake of Sparkle (TriStar) is set to be released Aug. 17.  It features the last acting performance of Whitney Houston, who died Feb. 11, 2012.

The film, directed by Salim Akil with a screenplay by Mara Brock Akil, stars Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick, Ceelo Green, Curtis Armstrong, Terrence J, Tamela Mann and Michael Beach. The film is produced by Debra Martin Chase, T.D. Jakes, Curtis Wallace, Salim Akil and Mara Brock Akil.

I caught up with the director Salim Akil, his wife and the screenplay writer, Mara Brock Akil, both of whom are also producers. We sat down to discuss the remake of the classic.


DD: Salim, what was your biggest challenge in tackling the remake of a classic?

SA:  My biggest challenge was finding a way to accept the job. We all know and love the original. I came home and told my wife. I told her I couldn’t do it because black folks are not going to kill me.

DD: Do you consider this a black film?

SA:  This is an Amerian story. Some will see it as an African American film only because of the shades they put on in the morning.

DD: You chose to stick with some of the elements of the original. For instance, the movie is set in the 60s.

SA:  I wanted to do it in 1968 to empower the women. In the other movie, the women were victims.

DD:  Your feeling on it, Mara?  You wrote the script.

MBA:  I, too, am always talking about empowering and about choices. I did want to pay homage to the first film, but I also wanted to make it my own. I wanted her (Sparkle) to be the only one who had a love of music.  Sisters’ (a character played by Carmen Ejogo) approach wasn’t a love of music, she just wanted to get out.  I wanted to get the point across that death doesn’t always come in the form of a coffin.


DD: You had to opportunity to write words for Whitney Houston.

MBA: I was wondering whether she wanted to be in this honestly. She was even more powerful than ever.

DD: Your thoughts about Whitney, Salim?

SA:  Her work ethic was tremendous. We were very clear that we didn’t want Whitney Houston singing on screen. We wanted her to be Emma and she delivered.

DD: You shot this film in 30 days. You also shot it in Detroit.

SA: We actually used some establishments that are legendary in Detroit. We used places like Baker’s Keyboard Lounge and Cliff Bell’s.  Our stories are American stories. Detroit is an American story. After they see this film, people will want to go there and spend some money.

DD: Why Jordin Sparks for the role of Sparkle?

SA: Now you know she’s an amazing actress. You know she can sing. When I saw her on tape, in her eyes there was a certain innocence. You get her to sing and you get R Kelly to write songs. You can’t lose unless I mess up.

No comments:

Post a Comment