For the first time ever, director Allen Hughes worked on a film project minus his twin brother, Albert. Since their classic 1993 debut, Menace II Society, the two have directed and produced 1995’s Dead Presidents, and their controversial documentary, American Pimp (1999).
But Allen Hughes, 40, found a project that he fell in love with. And instead of reaching out to his brother to work on it, he hit up pal (and producer) Mark Wahlberg to help him get it made.
Their new film Broken City, opening this Friday, is a throwback American crime drama. The cast is filled with Academy Award winners—Russell Crowe (Gladiator) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago) also co-star, and Wahlberg himself earned an Oscar nomination for 2010’s The Fighter.
Allen Hughes talks with EBONY.com about the film, scandals and working without the other Hughes brother.
EBONY: What was it like directing Mark Wahlberg in this film? He’s a badass in the best way possible.
Allen Hughes: It was probably, for me, the most fun I’ve had as far as working with an actor, because he has such a range. He’s making me laugh right now. He can do so many things: he can be edgy, funny, ironic, sweet. And I don’t think I’ve ever had an actor that was able to do all those things for one movie.
EBONY: This is your first project that you’re doing without your brother. What was that experience like?
AH: It was fun, but it was different. You know? Any new experience for me is welcome. And me and my brother have always talked about doing solo productions. He was on something [else] that he fell in love with, I fell in love with something, so it just happened.
EBONY: How did this project come to be? You had to work to get this green-lit.
AH: It wasn’t even at a studio. But I read it, I thought Mark would be perfect for it, so I bounce passed it to him. And he read it, loved it and came on as a partner, as a producer. He helped me and helped the film get financed. After that, he really was instrumental in bringing the cast together as well.
EBONY: The cast is fantastic.
AH: Yeah, we got a deep bench, a stacked deckhouse.
EBONY: Tell me something that happened while shooting this that folks won’t see in the final cut.
AH: A lot of cabernet was drank. [laughs] We had a lot of that purple drank. Poppin’ bottles!
EBONY: We love a good scandal. What’s something that you would love for people to walk away from this film after having seen it?
AH: That’s a deep question. There’s so much going on in this movie that it’s been challenging for me to go, What’s the one thing that people walk away from? But I think it obviously is a great redemption story. It makes one think about when you do something that you may regret. It just prompts you to think about justice, and obviously the different definitions of justice. Hopefully people just walk away like they did with Menace and they have debates over it.
EBONY: Wahlberg has said that this film reminded him of films he loved growing up. How about yourself?
AH: It reminded me of that golden era—at least, I consider it a golden era of cinema—the ’70s. I won’t ever put myself on some of the levels of those films, but you know, you strive for that, so we’ll see what the audience thinks. We definitely were reaching for that.
EBONY: The music is so great in the film.
AH: It really is. Atticus Ross—I discovered him through a TV show I did years ago called Touching Evil, and the first movie he composed was Book of Eli. In the same year he won an Academy Award for Social Network. I’m really excited about the music in this one, because the soundtrack unto itself is like a rock album. It’s like Pink Floyd meets Nine Inch Nails. But yes, the soundtrack’s amazing and I’m proud to be back to making a good soundtrack as well as the music in the film being so interesting and different, dynamic to the film.