The cast and crew of "Juice" look back on the making of the film, 22 years later.
The movie "Juice" remains a classic when it comes to hip-hop dramas/gangster flicks, even, or perhaps especially, 22 years later. With the 22-year anniversary being today, January 17th, MySpace decided to go in-depth with the surviving actors and creators of the film to get the oral history of "Juice."
MySpace spoke to the cast and crew of the film to get the play-by-play on what went down on the set and in the making of "Juice" with a young Tupac Shakur. "Juice" was the directorial debut of Ernest Dickerson, and an epic one at that. Dickerson managed to scrounge together $3 million to make the film, and it went on to make six times that.
MySpace spoke to cast members Omar Epps, Khalil Kain, Jermaine “Huggy” Hopkins, Treach, and Fab 5 Freddy as well as Dickerson and his co-writer Gerard Brown and co-producer Peter Frankfurt.
Read some interesting excerpts from their oral history below, and check out some vintage flicks of the cast and crew in the gallery above.
Head to MySpace to read the full interview.
Ernest Dickerson: Some of the characters were based on composites of kids that I knew, the brother of my wife at the time and some of his friends. I wanted to make "Juice" as realistically as possible, because we were dealing with something that a lot of kids deal with: peer pressure. We wanted to show how kids turn to guns to prove their self-worth. Some of the people that read the script thought it was too dark. But it was our intention to do a movie that was as honest as possible.
Gerard Brown: We wanted a rapper to play Bishop. In fact we wanted Q, Steel and Raheem to [all] be played by rappers. So we brought in 30 or 40 rappers. And the only rapper that could act was Tupac.
Ernest Dickerson: Our casting director, Jaki Brown-Karman, started looking for unknown actors because I told [the producers] there was nobody that we knew of that could play these roles. Jaki started going to high schools for the performing arts and community church theater groups. She literally ran through hundreds of applicants. It had to be four guys that could play together to create a fifth character—which was the group mind. I pretty much knew who I wanted Q to be. I wanted him to be Omar [Epps].
Omar Epps: That’s funny Ernest remembers it that way. [Laughs.] Because that was the first callbacks I ever had. That summer, I was 17, and just got out of high school. I looked at this script and it was funny because it was written in ‘70s vernacular. The characters were like, “Jive turkey” and all that. But they told us, “Yo, y’all just run with how y’all would do it.”
rnest Dickerson: Khalil [Kain] was running strong to be Raheem because he felt like such a natural leader. Steel was originally written as this skinny little kid. But the person who came with the best reading of the character was Jermaine. Talking to Jermaine it was important to get across that in the script Steel was the push over…he was supposed to be the weakest member of the group. But in the script we wanted it to be known that even though he gets shot by Bishop he survives it. He’s the one that helps resolve this. You just expected him to be the next one to die, but he doesn’t and pulls through. So I told him, “You have been afraid of Bishop, but by this point you have just had enough.” Basically Steel was telling Bishop, “What the fuck do you want from me?” He just has a generous soul. And he was the only member of our cast that had previous acting experience with Lean On Me.But Bishop was much more of a challenge. So one day, Treach from Naughty By Nature came in to read and he did a really good job, but he had this young brother hanging out with him. Treach turns to the guy and says, “What about you, man? You want to read?” The brother says, “Yeah, sure.” He was Tupac Shakur.
Treach: So Pac went and read. I’m sitting outside, but I’m about to run up into the office because I think he’s fighting in the room. All I hear is, “Yo motherfucker…you gotta die for this shit!” So as I’m coming to the door Pac is walking out and I’m like, “Yo, what’s good?” And Pac goes, “Nah, I was just reading for them.” I just looked at him and said, “Yo, I know you got that role.”
Khalil Kain: At the audition, Pac very much was about separating the men from the boys. The man was hysterical. He was the first black man that I ever met in my life that told me to my face, “This time next year I’m going to be a millionaire.” He’s talking shit, just running his fucking mouth like, “Yeah, you motherfuckers don’t know… I’m about to drop my album… I’m about to blow up!” We are all looking at Pac and laughing, “Nigga, shut the fuck up…you are not going to do shit!” But man, did he.
Omar Epps: I remember when I first met Pac they were filming different groups of actors together. So they were like, “Alright, let’s try these four. They were trying to get that feel I guess. But me and Pac ended up hitting it off. At the same time we were both trying to get it in. It was like, “Whatever…let’s go!” It was just dope how it came together. Pac was just a powerful spirit, man. I never really spent time with Kanye West, but when I see him I see the same honesty Pac had. A lot of people wouldn’t think that about ‘Ye, but his honesty is gangsta. And that’s how Pac was. He was that way from day one when I met him. That’s a magnetic quality. Me, I’m more of a laid-back, quiet person…I’m more of a listener. So Pac and I had a good contrast. I would be soaking everything up and he would be talking all the time. I’ve been doing this for 23 years and there is that X factor. People have it. And Pac was one of those guys that had it. When he walked into a room he made you want to say, “Who is that guy?” There’s a energy going on, and Pac knew his truth. He foresaw everything that would happen to him.
Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins: When it was pretty much getting down to the wire, they took us all out. They wanted to see how we would click together. They wanted to see which four guys would group up together naturally. And naturally me, Omar, Pac and Khalil basically became the clique.
Khalil Kain: Special Ed being in the movie was the kind of thing we didn’t know about. You show up and there’s EPMD. They were my shit! We had Samuel Jackson in our movie! Ernest wasn’t telling us who was going to be on set. You see Fab 5 Freddy there and then Queen Latifah. After they filmed their parts they would just hang out.
Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins: We didn’t like the fact that Omar had love scenes with Cindy. But we were happy that Omar was our boy so he told us everything. [Laughs.] We had to be professional in front of everybody because we wanted to respect her and the set. But when we got in our own corners at the end of the day we are still teenagers from the inner city. So we are going to have that same conversation of, “Yo, how was it? When you kissed her, was her lips soft?” Especially me because I’m the youngest! I was in love with Cindy! [Laughs.]
Khalil Kain: The day we filmed the part where Bishop shoots Raheem I could tell Pac was shying away from it. Shooting me didn’t feel right with him. And the first take we did was some bullshit. It was flat. The next take, I slammed Pac in the garbage cans. Pac got up and said, “Alright…alright motherfucker! I can’t wait to bust you now!” It was on after that. We shot an amazing scene.
Gerard Brown: I was not happy with the way "Juice" ended. It was our first film, so we had to acquiesce to a lot of crap. Originally, the way the script was written, at the end of the fight scene between Bishop and Q, I had Bishop and Q falling through the roof, but the producers said that’s too much money. So I had Bishop hanging over the ledge with Q pulling him up. But Bishop hears the police sirens and says to Q, “I’m not going to jail, man!” So in the script he breaks Q’s grip and he falls to his death.
Ernest Dickerson: I was really bummed out that they made us take that gun out of our "Juice" poster. Because the gun wasn’t in the poster for any frivolous reason. That gun is a pivotal part of the movie. The gun is a character; it’s the source of all their problems.
Peter Frankfurt: I’m like, “Come on guys. We got Albert fucking Watson to shoot the poster! This is like a piece of art. Why are you freaking out?”