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.
Sad to hear of the death of Joel Freeman on 21 January at the age of 95, producer of 1971’s Shaft. Other major productions he was involved in included The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Camelot, Finian’s Rainbow and Love at First Bite. He had been battling with lung cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Hollywood Reporter have posted an obituary on their website.
I contacted Joel whilst writing my book The World of Shaft and he told me he was preparing a book about the making of Shaft. Unfortunately it seems this will not now be completed.
Joel is survived by his wife, Betty, who described him as “a wonderful man and entertainer.”
Hollywood Reporter says musician and actor Cliff Smith (better known as Method Man) is the latest addition to the cast of Son of Shaft. He has been lined up to play an old friend of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft. he has recently been seen in HBO series The Deuce as well as hosting Drop the Mic.
Reports today in many of the trade websites that actor Avan Jogia, who starred in the recent fantasy TV series Ghost Wars, has been added to the cast of Son of Shaft, currently shooting in Atlanta. No details yet on the character he will play in the film, which is to star Samuel L Jackson and Jessie T Usher.
Well, here we are again. Another year on and it seems to have gone so quickly. At this time last year I gave a summary of activity in the world of John Shaft. It came at the end of an exciting two years, which saw the publication of two original comic books as well as a new novel, all written by David F Walker, relaunching Ernest Tidyman’s detective in literary form.
Walker had done a superb job at introducing the character to a new audience. His work proved to be a real treat for fans of the original books and films. Despite critical acclaim, these books did not sell in sufficient quantities to satisfy publishers Dynamite Entertainment and a planned reprint of Tidyman’s original novels stalled after the first release. The Italian reprints through SUR, however, did at least continue with the publication of the second book, Shaft Among the Jews, in January (retitled Shaft Tragli Ebrei).
Also in January, further news on the proposed new Shaft movie emerged when Tim Story was announced as director. The fact that Story has a string of comedic action tales to his credit added further fuel to the fire that the producers were moving away from the original concept.
In February, Walker’s Shaft: Imitation of Life comic book was nominated for the 2017 Dwayne McDuffie Award for Diversity. Whilst the book failed to win the award, it was further acknowledgement of Walker’s achievements. The writer would go on to produce high profile work away from Dynamite with a new Luke Cage series for Marvel along with Power Man and Iron Fist and Occupy Avengers and a comic series book series of Planet of the Apes for Boom.
All went quiet in the Shaft world until August, when in an interview Story confirmed, “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.”
Pre-production was mobilised and casting commenced with Jessie T Usher confirmed as the son of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft, who in turn is the nephew of Richard Roundtree’s original. The film, provisionally titled Son of Shaft, is therefore a sequel to John Singleton’s 2000 Shaft, which starred Jackson and was a belated sequel to the original Shaft trilogy from the early 1970s. What modern audiences will make of these nods to the character’s cinematic legacy remains to be seen, but it feels like this is Shaft in name only. Usher’s character is described as being at odds with the old-school methods of detection employed by his father – being a more tech-savvy sleuth working for the FBI. With the tone set for an action-comedy, the result is likely to be far-removed from Tidyman’s gritty novels and Gordon Parks’ iconic 1971 interpretation.
Alexandra Shipp and Regina Hall, the latter as Shaft Jr’s mother, were also added to the cast and shooting commenced in Atlanta in December with a scheduled move to New York planned in early 2018. A June 2019 release date has also been slated and a distribution deal has been agreed by New Line with internet movie provider, Netflix.
So, with 18 months to wait before we get to see any new Shaft on screen, what else is happening? Well the answer is not much. Whilst the original Shaft was finally released on Blu-ray in the UK in October, we still await BD releases of Shaft’s Big Score! and Shaft in Africa anywhere in the world. My guess is these will be released in 2019 to coincide with the new movie. Whether, Dynamite will follow suit by reprinting the remainder of Tidyman’s novels remains to be seen.
I remain hopeful hype around the movie will bring the Shaft legacy into the public eye once more – despite my reservations about its tone and subject matter. Dynamite still owns the literary rights, so maybe interest will be rekindled in commissioning more original literary work whether in comic book form or prose, hopefully with Walker on board.
Variety has reported that actress Regina Hall has joined the cast of the latest Shaft sequel – provisionally titled Son of Shaft – currently filming in Atlanta and New York. It is reported she will play the former love interest of Samuel L Jackson’s John Shaft (nephew of Richard Roundtree’s original Shaft) and mother to Jessie T. Usher’s John Shaft Jr. Hall has worked with producer/writer Kenya Barris on Barbershop: The Next Cut (2016), Girls Trip (2017) as well as the TV series Black-ish.
Filming commenced this month in Atlanta and will later move to New York. The film is slated for release on 14 June 2019.
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 Auctionwas 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 Lifehave 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.