A report by The Wrap states that a release date has been set for New Line’s controversial new take on Shaft. The date the film has been slated to his cinemas is 14 June 2019 – so quite some time to wait yet. No further reports on casting as yet, but with production scheduled to commence next month I expect further details will become available soon.
A number of websites and trade papers are reporting New Line’s negotiations with actress Alexandra Shipp to join the cast of Tim Story’s new Shaft sequel. What role Shipp (who recently appeared as Storm in X-Men: Apocalypse) will take is not yet known. Jessie T. Usher has already been signed to play the son of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft – the nephew of Richard Roundtree’s original John Shaft.
In addition DenofGeek.com report a newly released synopsis for the movie provisionally titled Son of Shaft:
Working for the FBI, estranged from his father and determined not to be anything like him, John Shaft Jr. reluctantly enlists his father’s help to find out who killed his best friend Karim and bring down a drug-trafficking/money-laundering operation in NYC.
Production is due to commence in December, meaning a winter shoot emulating the original Shaft movie which started shooting in January 1971. Larry Blanford who worked with Story on Ride Along and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, will be the director of photography.
In my book The World of Shaft, I included a chapter on the proposed Shaft comic strip Ernest Tidyman had been developing with respected comic book artist Don Rico. The strip was taken as far as 28 test panels between June and December 1972. Tidyman was unable to sell the strip to the major newspapers and the idea was eventually abandoned. I featured some samples of the strip artwork in my book along with earlier tests by artist David Russell, now a storyboard artist working on major Hollywood movies.
Well, whilst browsing the internet I came across a completed auction on 9 June 2017 through Profiles in History (based in Calabasas, California). In their Animation and Disneyana Auction was Lot 398: Don Rico and Ernest Tidyman signed original art for an unpublished comic strip entitled, Shaft. The guide price for the 11 finished and 6 unfinished strip panels was between $1,000 and $1,500. The lot was sold.
As it was preceded by a similar lot for a strip featuring The Six Million Dollar Man – also drawn by Don Rico – so, it is a possibility these signed panels have been listed for auction by the artist’s estate or a collector.
This is interesting because as far as I am aware the panels have not been widely available to view previously. I obtained copies of the full proposed strip from Ernest Tidyman’s papers as part of my research work along with earlier tests by other artists. David Russell also very kindly restored his initial test artwork, which was by far the most impressive, for inclusion in my book.
The Shaft comic strip idea was an interesting one, but the Newspaper Enterprise Association’s response at the time was: “The continuity-type strip has fallen on lean days, and the episodic panel or strip is the “in” thing, comics-page wise.” In fairness the story quality of the proposed Tidyman/Rico strip was relatively weak and did not come close to matching that of stronger episodic strips of the day.
It would be 2015 before John Shaft finally appeared in published comic form, via David F. Walker’s excellent series of comic books. Trade paperbacks of Shaft: A Complication Man and Shaft: Imitation of Life have been published by Dynamite Entertainment and are highly recommended.
Gordon Parks’ 1971 adaptation of Ernest Tidyman’s Shaft was released on Blu-Ray in the UK on 2 October via HMV’s “premium Collection”. The release has led to modern viewers and critics re-appraising a film that these days is seemingly better remembered for its theme song.
Casimir Harlow at AVForums had this to say on 19 October: “…a surprisingly low budget, straightforward affair that doesn’t appear anywhere near as flashy and funky as it’s theme song would have you believe, instead riding high not only on Hayes’ lyrics but also on the swagger and sheer screen presence of Richard Roundtree, an underrated star.”
Chris Hick at FilmWerk : “Despite his lack of real acting ability, Roundtree dominates every scene with his sculpted afro, big moustache and cool clothes including raincoat length leather jackets. The action is violent and in your face and shot in a seedy New York virtually unrecognisable today which has an obvious parallel with the superior The French Connection, that was coincidentally made the same year; the pair of films having many similarities with the snowy dirty and cold mean streets of the Big Apple.”
Rob Simpson, writing for TheGeekShow says, “More so than any film, this can be credited for the popularisation of 1970s black cinema with its mix of street culture, social commentary, phenomenal music, action, and crime jam-packed into a massively entertaining and punchy bundle.”
I am hoping Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa will follow onto Blu-Ray soon. But the likelihood is if at all the trilogy will be re-released to coincide with New Line’s cinema release of the latest Shaft sequel next year.
Deadline.com is reporting that New Line, producers of the latest Shaft sequel – mooted by some sources to be titled Son of Shaft – have made a deal with Netflix to fund half the $30m budget in exchange for international rights. The deal reportedly means Netflix will be able to stream the movie just 2 weeks after its release.
The movie is due to begin production in December. Since it was announced that Jessie T. Usher would star and reports suggested the involvement of both Samuel L. Jackson and Richard Roundtree, no further announcements on casting have been made.
I am keeping track of all updates on this project here.
The original 1971 Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree and directed by Gordon Parks, finally gets its UK Blu-ray release on 2 October via HMVs excellent Exclusive series. The extras are identical to the Region 1 release in 2012 in that it also includes one of the seven TV Movies – Shaft: The Killing. The bonus here though is the art card print set.
It is being reported in Variety, that Samuel L jackson has been approached to reprise his role from 2000’s Shaft with Jessie T. Usher being lined up to play his son.
It’s the usual “sources tell us…” approach to reporting, so we’ll wait and see. The film is set to be directed by Tim Story from a script by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow.
UPDATE (19/8): A further report in Deadline states the title of the film will be Son of Shaft and that Richard Roundtree is also lined up to appear with production due to start before the end of autumn. Usher’s John Shaft III is reported to be an FBI agent and cyber expert whose methods will clash with the old school approach of his father.
Well, after months of silence on this project, director Tim Story has given some clues as to the tone of the upcoming Shaft reboot. Story was interviewed at Showtime’s Television Critics Association party (reported by SlashFilm.com) where he said, “My Shaft movie is going to be definitely not straight action. We’re going action-comedy or comedy-action, I’m not exactly sure which one comes first. We’re going to definitely make sure the stakes in the world are real, and then you’ve got these characters who are dealing with kind of a father/son situation, we’re going to see them put a family back together.”
Story goes on to say, “We’re still paying an homage to the original, so [Shaft] still means what it means. At the end of the day though, it does mean just a strong figure. We also have Shaft’s son’s mom in it as well. She’s a strong figure as well. It’s not even specific to the male. It’s specific to just strong people.”
This news is not what fans of Ernest Tidyman’s creation were wanting to hear. David F Walker showed how the character could be made relevant again to a modern audience with his comic book series, Shaft: A Complicated Man, which in my view would have made for a great movie adaptation to re-introduce a cultural icon. What it seems like we’re going to get instead is something that is perceived to be more acceptable to an undemanding movie-going public, trading off a brand name.
Whatever it turns out to be, I hold no confidence it will be add anything positive to the Shaft legacy.
This week I completed my first interview by Skype about my book The World of Shaft with James P Stancil of the New Books Network. James was a very gracious host. The podcast is now available to listen to by clicking the link below:
It was announced today that Shaft: Imitation of Life has been nominated for the 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity. Written by David F. Walker with art work by Dietrich Smith and featuring the eponymous black hero, the comic also tackled issues of the exploitation of homosexual males in early 1970s New York. The comic followed Walker’s Shaft: A Complicated Man, which was nominated for the same award in 2015.