Last week director John Singleton began shooting his update of Gordon Parks Jr.’s 1971 kick-ass private-eye opus ”Shaft,” and Paramount announced that Richard Roundtree (the original hero/womanizer) will reprise his role in a cameo. Upping the cool quotient is Samuel L. Jackson, who’s continuing the family legacy as Shaft’s nephew. And rapper Busta Rhymes, Jeffrey Wright (”Basquiat”), and Vanessa Williams will make a supporting cast to be reckoned with.
But why did Singleton, whose last film was the highbrow historical drama ”Rosewood,” opt for a shot at the superfly P.I.? ”’Shaft’ was one of the best detective movies,” he tells EW Online. ”I put it up there with ‘The Big Sleep.”’ And he adds that people are mistaken if they think it’s just one of those typical ’70s flicks featuring edgy black antiheroes: ”It wasn’t a Pimp Movie. You had white guys running around with leather jackets and afros, wanting to be Shaft. Let’s get that straight, it’s not a black exploitation film. It’s like ‘Boyz N the Hood’ [Singleton’s 1991 calling card]. ‘Shaft’ was so successful, it started a rash of (inferior) imitators.”
So how will his millennial version — which will keep Isaac Hayes’ Oscar-winning theme song — be different from the pace-setting original? For one thing, Jackson won’t be needing a 24-7 hairdresser to tame his ‘fro. Quips Singleton, ”Sam will be bald, raw, and badass.”