In a nondescript room on the Sony Pictures lot, music video veteran-turned-filmmaker Director X edited a semi-finalized version of the upcoming “Superfly” remake, chicken salad in hand.
He didn’t have time for a lunch break because the movie was undergoing a last-minute cleanup before being shown to studio heads for the first time. When asked whether the version of the film being edited that day would be the same one theatergoers see upon the film’s June 15 release, the director, born Julien Christian Lutz and previously known as Little X, laughed good-naturedly.
“It all depends on Monday,” he said of the executives’ screening, “but this is what we’re presenting.”
“Superfly,” which stars “Grown-ish” actor Trevor Jackson as the titular drug dealer, is a highly stylized action flick that truly pushes the limits of its R rating. News first broke that the film would go into production in January. After less than 40 days of shooting, it will open in time for summer blockbuster season — a lightning-fast turnaround compared with the Hollywood standard.
“There was not a lot of time to get this together,” X admitted. “But I tell my guys, ‘All those jobs where you had all the prep time you needed and time to get it right, this ain’t that job. All those jobs prepared you for this job.’ ”
As for the director himself, “I’m born from chaos filmmaking,” he said. “So it didn’t bother me a bit.”
It was important to X, the vision behind music videos like Drake’s “Hotline Bling” and Miguel’s “Skywalker,” not to stray too far from the original “Super Fly” but rather to update the 1972 blaxploitation crime drama for 2018.
“We respect the original story,” he said. “That’s what the foundation of this is, the original movie. I can’t express my hate for going to see a movie and they changed the ending or they ‘fixed’ it for us, and it never needed to be fixed. We didn’t ‘fix’ ‘Super Fly,’ we modernized ‘Super Fly,’ and that’s the core of it.”
So what’s at the heart of “Superfly”? Director X summed it up thusly: A drug dealer decides to leave the game after being attacked, goes to his supplier for one last big score but is denied and finds a new supplier only to catch the attention of a pair of crooked cops.
“Then with the help of his girlfriend,” X said, “he manages to outsmart everybody.”
The film features the same characters as the original, with story arcs that are “tonally or spiritually” the same, X said. “There’s some slight changes, but the base of this is ‘Super Fly.’ I’m treating this like ’hood Shakespeare.”
Despite the intended tonal similarities, X did take the liberty of making small changes to combat the original’s misogyny, most notably Super Fly’s (aka Youngblood Priest) attitude toward women.
“In the original [it was] ‘Get out of here,’ ‘Shut up,’ ‘Do what I tell you,’ ” he said. “He doesn’t speak to them like that [anymore]. They’re his partners now, they’re his peers.”
The subplot that sees Priest simultaneously involved with two women hasn’t been scrapped but rather updated for the times. The original Priest was a two-timing chauvinist; in the modern version he’s in a committed polyamorous relationship with two consenting women.
“Some people have these relationships,” X said. “He’s one of them. But I didn’t add this girl. In the original, he had two girlfriends. This [film] deals with that in the way that it deals with it. It’s very now.”