Our columnist pitches a remake of 'Brother John,' a Harlem Renaissance historical drama and an alternative to the Nina Simone biopic we all wish had never happened
Colin Kaepernick’s production company recently signed a first-look deal with Disney to make several as-yet-undetermined projects. Trading jobs from one multi-billion-dollar conglomerate for another with fewer burpee requirements, the union is looking to make films and documentaries that focus on race and social justice, and across multiple platforms. I imagine they’ll be in full pitch mode once all of this quarantine business is over, so I have compiled a little something for everyone.
"Brother John" (Drama, remake)
A mysterious figure, Brother John reappears in his small town whenever someone in his family dies, then disappears again to travel the world doing… well, no one knows what John is up to. Whatever it is comes to a head when he returns one last time, presumably before the end of the world. Is he an angel? A harbinger of doom? An emissary for some alien force? When this was released in 1971, starring perhaps the greatest Black actor to have ever stepped in front of a camera, Sidney Poitier, the tensions were about labor disputes, race agitation and brutal police. So basically, you don’t have to change anything.
Starring: We don’t have a Poitier today at any age, but you need someone who looks world-weary, doesn’t speak much and can stop a racist cold with just his gaze. Let’s go with Mahershala Ali.
"It Takes a Nation of Millions" (Action)
Just pour a ton of Black actors who have kicked ass in other films in one big "Expendables"-type film and shake. This kind of film was a lot harder to convince Hollywood to do before Black Panther became one of the biggest movies of all time, so I say we shoot for the moon here. I don’t really care what this movie is about so long as it has lots of explosions, lots of hand-to-hand combat and as little dialogue as possible.
Starring: Idris Elba, Thandie Newton, Samuel L. Jackson, Taraji P. Henson, Wesley Snipes, Michael B. Jordan, Michael Jai White, Regina King, Dwayne Johnson. Let’s make Terry Crews the villain. Everybody wants to beat him up right now anyway.Get The Other Columbus delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
"The Harlem Renaissance" (Historical Drama)
Proving truth is often better than fiction, this is a high-powered ensemble film presenting the Harlem Renaissance with its many dramas, back-stabbings and sexual politics intact.
Starring: This needs a hardcore acting cast with some interesting cats thrown in for range. Figure out who is who, but you want Ruth Negga, Regina Hall, Angelica Ross, Brian Michael Smith, Billy Porter, Jeffrey Wright, Roger Guenveur Smith, Chiwetel Ejiofor. (If you think that’s a lot of queer and women actors heading up a story like this, you need to read up on the Harlem Renaissance when it isn’t February.) Someone white has to play the insidious “mother” patron Charlotte Osgood Mason, and I have my eye on Frances McDormand.
"It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World" (Comedy, remake)
The 1963 version of this featured a huge ensemble, but in this remake Dave Chappelle and Wayne Brady team up once more and basically turn that Chappelle Show skit into a full-blown road trip movie. Along the way they have crazy adventures and meet every type of person you never want to meet on a road trip. And Wayne is still wildin’.
INT. MOVIE STUDIO OFFICE — DAY
Studio executive: “Hey Scott, besides Chappelle and Brady, who else appears in this?”
Me, in Gary Oldman voice from "Leon The Professional": “EVERYONNNNNNNE!”
For maximum effect you hire pretty much any Black comedian that has an afternoon to spare. Just make sure D.L. Hughley is wearing a mask.
A woman navigates a world in which everyone wants her, but she has only ever been attracted to intelligence. Because this is set in America, she never finds love.
Starring: Gabrielle Union and who cares.
"The King & The Prince" (Musical drama)
This was a thing I actually pitched for real a few years back, but it was considered too small for the production company in question. The premise is to take the real-life incident when Quincy Jones put Michael Jackson and Prince in the same room to talk about working together on a project, but with a twist: Jones locks the two megastars in the room together for 24 hours until they agree to work together. What ensues is a dramatic, funny tour de force of egos, tears and, of course, a little music.
Starring: No idea. No one looks like Prince but Prince. And Jackson isn’t the easiest casting in the world, either. All I know is you can’t hire Ralph Fiennes again.
"Nina" (Music biopic)
Let’s all pretend the 2016 Zoe Saldana version never happened.
Starring: Michaela Coel of "I May Destroy You." Period, end of discussion. If you don’t get Coel to do this, you never do this film.