*The riveting and explosive film “Fruitvale Station,” based on true events, won both the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature and the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
It’s deja vu witnessing the Trayvon Martin trial because both Oscar Grant in “Fruitvale Station” and Trayvon were shot down in cold blood. The cop that shot Grant in the back while he was on the ground only received 11 months prison time.
Zimmerman, who stalked Trayvon and killed him because he assumed Trayvon was a “punk” and up to no good — even though police officers told Zimmerman not to pursue Martin — is being considered for the accommodating charge of manslaughter. As this type of history is being made once more and the stage is set for Zimmerman to get a slap on the wrist, Nina Simone’s song “Strange Fruit” hanging from a tree comes to mind. Simone would be surprised to see that the lynch mob no longer wears hoods and sheets.
Writer/director Ryan Coogler, and stars Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz were stationed at the Le Parker Meridien hotel recently to talk about this remarkable movie. The Film Strip first talked with Coogler.
Ryan, what strikes you most about the death of Oscar Grant?
“The tragic affect it has on those who love him, especially his daughter, Tatiana. She just turned nine and she doesn’t have her dad.”
Are you surprised at all the attention this film is getting?
“Absolutely! For me, it was just a miracle to finish, a miracle to get accepted into the festival. Each step of the way I’ve been surprised, taken aback and moved by it because it was never supposed to happen and never even get finished. ”
Do you think the film will have any affect on the Trayvon Martin case?
“I hope it offers some insight. I hope people who see the film can connect with Oscar. So many people don’t come in contact with young black males. He died unnecessarily. ”
A short time after Coogler was ushered out of the room, Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz entered.
Michael and Melonie, what stands out most in your mind about this dreadful story of lost and injustice?
MBJ: That it would be even more tragic if it wasn’t caught on camera and there were no charges brought against the cop who shot Oscar.
MD: Second chances come to mind, being young and trying to make the right choices, going in the right direction and doing the right thing. What was really heartbreaking to me was that Oscar was really at this point where he was going to move forward with his family and try and be a better man and this happens. I wonder what would he had been if this hadn’t happened to him.
What do you think about the decision to turn the charges against Zimmerman into manslaughter?
MBJ: Personally, I hope you don’t mind if I don’t answer that question.
Jordan’s next project is “Are We Officially Dating,” and yes, he says, he is officially dating.
Idris Elba Saves the World
Before a discussion of an impending alien Armageddon at the Apple Store here in New York, the elephant in the closet that had to be addressed was Elba’s name in “Pacific Rim.”
Idris, what did you think of your character’s name, Stacker Pentecost?
First thing is that he’s religious and I’m thinking he’s some sort of a preacher or a guru but the name was definitely the best character name I think I’ve ever had. Pentecost Stacker, that’s the s–t.
In the movie you get to say, ‘Today, we’re canceling the apocalypse.’ What went through your head when you said that?
When I read the line, I have to admit that it sounds better than it actually reads. When I read it, I was like, ‘What? Canceling the apocalypse? Who speaks like that?’ When you’ve got like 600 extras, this body suit, this armor, these big robots next to you, you’ve got that haircut, you feel the words. The words suddenly came to me. Canceling the apocalypse, I felt it.
The diverse cast Guillermo Del Toro put together was no doubt intentional?
That was part of the DNA of what Guillermo wanted to do. He wanted an international cast because the problems of the Kaiju is an international problem. So he wanted it to feel like if the world had to come together, this is what it would look like. There wouldn’t be America and English, it would just be one army. I think that was imprinted in the DNA of the whole script and showed up in the end.
In Thor, your character Heimdall was the guardian of the Rainbow Bridge, which was severed. But in the sequel, Heimdall is back?
Yeah, Heimdall is back and a version of the bifrost is back.
You’re also playing Nelson Mandela. Can you talk about that?
I have to say that I feel like I don’t want to talk about Nelson right now. He’s very sick. I don’t want to talk about the film because it feels a little displaced to do that. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve been thinking about him lately.
Did filming his story change you in any way?
The film definitely changed me. Understanding who that man is deepened my own perspective of myself and the world. It’s hard for me to talk about it because there’s so much to talk about. Hopefully that film impacts and educates the audience but for me, it was a life changing film to make.
Did you have any idea ‘The Wire’ would make the impression that it did?
I didn’t. The way ‘The Wire’ was pitched in the beginning was that it was a procedural cop show. When I read it, I realized there was much more to it but I didn’t realize how important it was to modern day television. I didn’t realize it would end up being a reference point for the rest of my life but I knew that the writing was good. I knew we were gonna see a part of the world that one normally doesn’t get to see.
Can you talk about ‘Luther’ and the James Bond brouhaha?
Well, ‘Luther’ is back for season three. We open in London this month and in America in September. I’m really excited about this season. The show has really evolved. James Bond is a massive rumor that has taken legs. I’m definitely glad to be associated with it and that people would like to see me in that role but it’s not happening. If it did happen, that would be great.
Marie Moore is a syndicated veteran entertainment journalist who reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org