- September 18, 2003
Interview with Rudy Langlais, Feature Film
Producer - Chapter I
While there is just so much more to know about Rudy
journey to Hollywood
than this article could hope to reflect, the impression that
stands out the most about this man is his gracious and
unassuming spirit. Rudy is a statuesque and compelling
figure who is a quiet observer of the activities around
him. At the same time, his laugh can fill a room! His ease
with himself is apparent as he radiates that assurance
around him. Admittedly, I felt a little out of my league
interviewing Rudy and I only hope that I do this partial
account of his journey justice.
Rudy Langlais has
a love affair with language. It’s not long into a
conversation with him that you sense that this man has an
intense passion for literature
and knowledge about literature.
I initially met Rudy on the set of his most recent project, Redemption - the Stanley
'Tookie' Williams Story",
directed by our mutual friend, Vondie
Curtis Hall. Rudy’s filmography reflects a consistent
inclination towards biographical accounts, namely Who
Killed Atlanta's Children? (based
on Rudy's true story in whichGregory
Hines played him in the film), The
Hurricane, and Sugar
the story of Stanley Williams, founder of the Crips gang. Of
this project, Rudy says that the theme of Redemption is
not dissimilar to the theme of Sugar
it's based on the idea that “I
must believe in a man's ability to redeem himself from the
villainy of his past”. Deep.
Rudy states that biographical accounts are the most
difficult to work on, as they can take years
to complete and no one initially believes in them. He
mentioned that the hardest thing about any movie that you
care about is that it is
emotionally draining. “The
ideas of the story matters so much that the journey to
realizing the ideas is about laying it all out there –
feeling every moment of it, living every moment of it,
caring about every moment of it,” explains
Rudy in his resonating bass voice.
Rudy’s journey began in his birthplace of Basseterre, St.
His middle class family ultimately moved to Florida to
pursue the American dream. Initially, the American dream
meant becoming become part of the vast plantation system in
northern Florida as plantation workers - picking cotton,
peas and beans. Rudy also worked in a bottling plant and
thus was his introduction into America.
Rudy had been a sports writer but made his transition into
news in 1978 by becoming the City Editor of the Village
Voice in New
York. Rudy was the first Black editor (or minority editor
for that matter) at the Voice, almost in contrast to the
paper's liberal reputation. Rudy’s objective for the Voice
was to allow minority writers to write about themselves,
instead of having White writers simply write about minorities.
Rudy is a pioneer that changed the face of the Village Voice
which had previously been a closed club to minorities.
He eventually chose to switch gears and moved out of
publishing and into movie production. Rudy was introduced
to the film world
by none other than Norman
an American author and innovator of the non-fiction novel. Mailer agreed
to write a screenplay for Rudy which led
to his first
Hollywood "development" deal. The
transition was made easier as there are many similarities
between being a producer and an editor. Rudy's criteria for
working on a film is "What
is the idea?".
He is always seeking a big idea and if it is a radical or
controversial idea, then all the better.
I asked Rudy to describe the duties of an Executive
Producer. Rudy answered
that the best description of producer
that he has ever heard is "a
film is like a body that is always trying to die and it's
the producer's job to keep blowing life into it every day." He
further explains that this may mean everything from
financing to keeping the various competing interests moving
in the same direction, putting out fires, keeping focus on
what you're doing. If focus is lost with many other visions
coming into view, it may result in a different movie than
what the initial idea was. Everyone has to see the same
movie, understand the same vision and then keep drawing it
back to what that is.
Rudy wanted his first movie project to be based on The Rosy
Crucifixion, a trilogy of novels including Sexus, Plexus and
Nexus by Henry
Miller – a
“sexy tale”, says Rudy. It is autobiographical and tells
the story of Miller's first tempestuous marriage and his
relentless sexual exploits in New York. Rudy said that he
chose this movie because Miller wrote the best line about
falling in love - "To
fall in love with a woman means to break every bond except
the most terrible bond of all which is the fear of losing
So, he asked Norman
he would write the screenplay who enlisted Milos
Forman as the
director. Rudy then went to LA to raise money to finance
his screenplay, although he never intended on moving there.
The ideal scenario for him was that he wanted to make movies
from New York yet continue to tap his literary relationships
in New York. The biggest issue with LA for him was that he
felt that LA (Hollywood) would not be open to making films
based on serious literature.
Ultimately however, Rudy did
relocate to LA. Thank
goodness, because the films he has worked on are incredible
true stories that have heightened our awareness of human
nature and frailty. They have taken us along on someone's
journey and opened our hearts. If you haven't checked out
his films (some of which are listed above), please do so.
You won't be disappointed!
I thoroughly enjoy Rudy's presence and if so blessed, I will
be updating you on his next project currently on the
horizon. It is the Bob
which I believe will be filmed in Toronto.