During Shadow And Act's Locked Down With __ live Q&A on Facebook, director Gina Prince-Bythewood told fans two stories about the making of her 2000 classic, Love & Basketball.
Prince-Bythewood talked about her film initially earning an R-rating for its love scene.
“When we did it, I was very specific about what I wanted it to be. It's a girl's first time, Monica's first time, I wanted it to be the fantasy...I kind of wanted to give a blueprint for boys and girls of what to expect. I wanted the reality of it," she said. “Sanaa [Lathan] and Omar [Epps] were so dope in that scene, so protective of each other. They just gave the realness, especially just the looks that they were giving each other that said so much, which added organic humor to it which I loved."
“When it came time to get our MPAA grade on it, they gave us an R, and it was because of that scene," she continued. “Their argument was that the scene was too real, which is so bizarre--there's no nudity whatsoever in it, there's no grinding. So you're giving me an R because it felt too real, but that was the whole point."
After trimming it and sending it back in for a rating, only to get an R again, Prince-Bythewood said she “felt attacked as an artist" and was about to accept the rating before New Line asked her to trim it one more time. Finally, the film earned a PG-13 rating, which made Prince-Bythewood realize that if her film did keep the R-rating, the viewers she made the film for, Black girls, wouldn't have been able to see the film. Thanks to that realization, she said that “when I look at the scene now, I don't feel compromised at all."
Prince-Bythewood also talked about the scene between Lathan and Alfre Woodard, which involved Woodard slapping Lathan.
“We're doing the scene and Alfre is fake-slapping [Sanaa]...and I was not getting the performance from Sanaa," said Prince-Bythewood, who added how it was tough to see Sanaa struggle with the scene as a director because she wanted to help Sanaa find the right way through the scene.
“We just kept trying and it wasn't coming and finally Alfre came over to me privately and said, 'Do you want me to hit her, really hit her?'" said Prince-Bythewood. “And in my mind, I was like 'Yes,' but then as a director I realized that if I said 'Yes,' then Sanaa would never be able to trust me as a director because I literally said, 'Yes, harm you.' So I told Alfre no, I couldn't do that.
“So they do the take again, and Alfre slaps her on the leg, to get the shock, and it just made Sanaa laugh," she continued. “So then they went one more time and I'm sitting at the monitor watching, and boom--Alfre slaps the hell out of Sanaa for real. I almost yelled cut which is so scary because that performance is in the movie. Sometimes I learned as a director get out of the way and let the actors in the scene feed off each other enough and give each other what they need and sometimes they know better what they need."
Her upcoming Netflix film, The Old Guard, will be released in July.
Photo: New Line Cinema