Cuba Gooding, Jr. is Chess King in New Film

Susie Stillwell | 4/3/2014, noon | Updated on 4/3/2014, noon
Cuba Gooding, Jr. plays Eugene Brown in the remarkable film, “The Life of a King,” based on the real life ...
Cuba Gooding

It all goes back to the Oscars. People are like, ‘why aren’t there more Black people winning Oscars? And for years it was said because we need more people voting in the academy. Now a lot of older academy members are dying off—I hate to say it—and now the younger people are coming and nominating and they’ve got all kinds of Black people in there.

It’s the same thing with these foreign buyers. You have to remember you got a 65, 75-year-old white Frenchman buying films for Paris that has to have George Clooney in them. But when I go to Paris, there are young Black guys saying, we love ‘Boyz n the Hood.’ How can we get that movie?’ Well, your buyer has to accept it. And I believe all over the world these stories are happening. ‘The Butler’ is at 165 million dollars in box office, foreign sales included. So was it really a black story to those people or was it that movie that everybody’s going to see? There’s no big conspiracy theory of ‘let’s keep these Negroes off the screen.’ I don’t believe that. I believe it’s just that locked mindedness that ‘hey, I gotta sell to my distributors and the distributors are asking for George Clooney movies.

I’m telling you there was a time I traveled with a guy who would fly me in a private jet and I would be on a yacht with these buyers who were just star struck. They took a lot of pictures with me and they didn’t speak English. They were from Japan, Beirut, Lebanon, you name it and I was famous to them because I was Tom Cruise’s co-star. They were like, ‘show me the money.’ But then when the studio said, ‘hey, we have a Cuba Gooding Jr. movie, it’s a different story. If the buyers were star struck, I’m sure the people they’re showing my movies to would be too. However, there’s a disconnect in that mentality, which is a little frustrating. I do believe, though, that even that mindset is starting to turn over there because now, specifically in the UK, we have the Idris Elbas and the Chiwetel Ejiofors and Black filmmakers like Steve McQueen. They are being celebrated even if those distributors only want from America white leading men or women. Look, Idris has the hit TV show ‘Luther’ in the UK. So it’s opening up and they [foreign distributors] don’t even realize it. They don’t even realize it. And then let’s say Chiwetel does a film that does $100 million in the UK but then comes over here and it does only $4 million. Are you going to say it’s because he’s Black it didn’t sell? He Pretty soon you won’t be able to use the same old excuses and I think that’s when the transition will come

SS/JC: This is a great film, so why aren’t there a horde of reporters chasing the story and details?

CG: Because you can’t sell a secret. The thing is this movies wasn’t even supposed to have this until we said, ‘wait a minute, it’s in limited release and VOD, I don’t care. I’m still gonna let them know I’m flying into town to promote it. And sometimes that’s just how it happens. You can’t sell a freakin’ secret! If this movie came out a year from now there would be a bunch of people here because the wonderful ladies that are setting up these interviews would have the benefit of the change that happened in 2013. In 2013 you had ‘Fruitvale Station,’ ‘The Butler,’ ‘12 Years a Slave,’ ‘Mandela’ and the list goes on. So watch, in 2014 when someone says, ‘we got this black film starring’ such and such, they will say, ‘we don’t care.’ We’re just in that transitional period of time.