Sad news to hear of the death of John Donald Francis Black (December 30, 1932 – November 29, 2018), who was a major contributor to the success of the original Shaft.
Ernest Tidyman had adapted his own novel in a literal fashion for the original screenplay. Gordon Parks drafted in Black, a very experienced TV and screenwriter, to tighten up the plotting and dialogue. The result was a co-writer credit. The movie was shot using Black’s revision as its basis. Gordon Parks added his own magic and with Isaac Hayes’ score and Richard Roundtree’s assured starring role debut, it became an unlikely hit. MGM was saved from bankruptcy and the Blaxploitation genre took off in Hollywood. His prolific career in TV (including Star Trek, Laredo, Hawaii Five-O, etc.) demonstrates the breadth of his skills.
Black died peacefully of natural causes at the Motion Picture Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. A statement from his publisher Jacobs/Brown Press on behalf of his widow, Mary, can be accessed here.
ComicBook.com reports New Line has released the official synopsis for their Shaft sequel to be released next summer. The synopsis reads as follows:
“Shaft is the next chapter in the film franchise featuring the coolest private eye on any New York City block. JJ, aka John Shaft Jr. (Usher), may be a cyber security expert with a degree from MIT, but to uncover the truth behind his best friend’s untimely death, he needs an education only his dad can provide. Absent throughout JJ’s youth, the legendary locked-and-loaded John Shaft (Jackson) agrees to help his progeny navigate Harlem’s heroin-infested underbelly. And while JJ’s own FBI analyst’s badge may clash with his dad’s trademark leather coat, there’s no denying family. Besides, Shaft’s got an agenda of his own, and a score to settle that’s professional and personal.”
The film is a follow-up to 2000’s Shaft and again stars Samuel L Jackson as John Shaft, nephew of Richard Roundtree’s original John Shaft. Roundtree reprises his role and they are joined by Jessie T. Usher playing Jackson’s son. Tim Story directs the screenplay by Kenya Barris and Alex Barnow.
Although filming wrapped on Tim Story’s Shaft sequel in February, the cast have been assembled for some re-shoots in Atlanta. Casting agencies are on the lookout for extras who are former or current police or military. The call has also been made for an African American/Black Female with Gray Hair and extras of all ethnic backgrounds for a 1990s flashback scene. Filming will take place this weekend.
Samuel L Jackson was briefly interviewed at the premiere of The Incredibles 2 in London on 8 July and was asked about the new Shaft movie. He stated the movie’s 2019 June release date was to tie in with Father’s Day, given the nature of the relationship between his character and the of Jessie T Usher in the movie. HIs hinting toward a family orientated theme seems at odds with the previous films in the series, but may just be reflective of the nature of the three generations of Shaft in the movie, with Richard Roundtree also present to reprise his original role.
Christopher Lennertz is named by IMdB and Film Music Reporter as the man tasked with writing the score to the latest Shaft movie, due out in the summer of 2019. Lennertz has worked on a host of films and TV series since 1994, including the recent Lost in Space TV reboot. He previously worked with director Tim Story on 2014’s action comedy, Ride Along and its 2016 sequel. He also scored Pitch Perfect 3 and the recent remake of Baywatch. He won an Emmy in 2006 for his score for Supernatural. He has also scored several video games including the James Bond release From Russia With Love, for which he received good reviews for the way he recalled John Barry’s style. An adaptable composer, it will be interesting to see if he can add a distinctive feel to his score for Shaft.
In a recent interview reported on People.com Samuel L Jackson talked briefly about the latest Shaft movie. It was originally reported that the film would be an Action/Comedy. This caused much disappointment and anger amongst fans of the original books and films, myself included.
In the interview about the dynamics in black films Jackson says: “When we started the film, the producers wanted to make an action comedy, and I told them that you can’t make John Shaft a comedic character. He can be funny, but he has to be strong, dynamic, and charismatic in all the ways that he was because he is part of our mythology. Shaft is part of our black film anthology. He was a hero and one of the first people we saw to be that kind of a character.”
Whilst this statement on its own is unlikely to convince sceptics, it may offer some faint hope that the filmmakers will take the character seriously. However, with the focus being on the original characters’ nephew and nephew’s son it is unlikely the film will resemble Ernest Tidyman’s vision. Why New Line did not consider re-introducing Tidyman’s original character, whether it be in an update or a retro crime thriller, remains a mystery. Trying to extend the Shaft family (despite it being clear in the novels that Shaft had no siblings) takes us further away from the original character concept. As I have said before, my preference would have been for an adaptation of David F Walker’s comic book “origins story”. But I guess this is more about trying to make money than being authentic and respectful of the Shaft legacy.
The Daily Mail has published new photos from New Line’s Shaft sequel have been released confirming filming has now moved to New York. The pics show the three John Shaft’s (Jessie T Usher, Samuel L Jackson and Richard Roundtree) on the streets in matching long brown trench coaches and grey turtle neck sweaters.
According to ComicBook.com, the photo shoot was organised by Aleks Musika to publicise clothing from his Musika Frere fashion line.
The first photo of all three John Shafts has been posted to Instagram by Jessie T Usher. Here Usher (John Shaft III) is joined by Richard Roundtree (the original Shaft) and Samuel L Jackson (John Shaft II).
Jessie T Usher has confirmed the involvement of Richard Roundtree in New Line’s latest Shaft sequel, previously referred to as Son of Shaft, but now merely referred to as Shaft. A video he posted to Instagram depicting the three actors states that he, Samuel L Jackson and Richard Roundtree were rehearsing for the new movie. Photos have also been made available showing Jackson and Usher in character.
The List reports today that One Tree Hill actor Robbie Jones is the latest addition to the cast list of New Line’s Son of Shaft. It is also reported the new Line are still trying to secure the services of original Shaft, Richard Roundtree. Production continues on the film, which is currently shooting in Atlanta.