I recently watched a videotaped speech you gave where you joked about how most people in the audience probably knew you from your blockbuster films where you've been blown off a toilet; yet, you turn around and produce and act in a film like Bamako.
Well, Bamako, To Sleep With Anger, about two homeless men which I produced, I mean, it's been pretty much just the American dream. Those are the kinds of things I try to do in terms of the work I set out to do. I don't want to separate the two because they [both] exist within a framework. Once you do a large, successful movie for the studio, it's always a possibility that that movie will become a franchise for the studio and there's a certain responsibility that you have to that franchise, as long as you're a leading character. In that responsibility, the question [becomes], What kind of responsibility do I have to myself in terms of seeing about other things I want to do? To Sleep With Anger, which I shot in 1988-89, came specifically out of the fact that they were going to do another Lethal Weapon 2 and that Sony Pictures was providing some money - at one point, $4 million - so they saw it to their advantage. Little did they know that it turned out to be one of the best films of that year. But it was a film that resonated with me. Its value in terms of structure, in terms of storytelling, in terms of whose story the film chooses to anoint, all those things were important to me when I approached the film, besides playing the lead in it, and also becoming its executive producer as well.
So what I'm saying is that it seems seamless, but there are two things that happen, and in both of them you fight for a career, and whatever that career means. If it means that you're blessed with a franchise that you do four and you make a lot of money, then you fight for an idea and a vision of what you want to do in terms of the film. That, for me, is transitory. That idea is vital to me. I gotta want to do something. I'm not going to sit around behind my gated community and try to figure out what the next move is. I gotta do something that resonates with me and, hell, I get engaged with it.
What resonates for me is often serviced by my political life and what I choose to be engaged in and what I choose to talk about. If on the one hand, we take my being a child of the Civil Rights Movement and the evolution of the Civil Rights Movement and the internationalism that occurred as a result of that, the embracing of not only our own struggle but the commonality in other struggles, then the idea of Africa becoming a part of my sphere is real. What is it about that? How can I in my mind make a contribution to the world? How can I, in some sense, be of some use and serve? That essentially is the through-line through my life because the people who embrace me, the people that I saw that I embraced at my earliest age, were people who were of service, who talked about service, who talked about a much larger vision of the world and even tried to imagine a world of equity and imagine a world where people are all their brothers' keepers. That's the kind of world that I imagined and think of.
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