Samuel L. Jackson and John Singleton complain that studio execs tamed the amorous private eye
In the 1971 Oscar winning theme song to ”Shaft,” Isaac Hayes croons that Richard Roundtree’s suave character is the black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks. But in the new version of ”Shaft,” Samuel L. Jackson (as Shaft’s crime solving nephew and namesake John Shaft) sees more action on the streets than between the sheets thanks to the film’s politically correct producers.
Director John Singleton says producer Scott Rudin and Paramount Studios executives refused to grant Shaft more than two sexual encounters in the film. In the opening credits, Jackson’s character gets down and dirty with an unnamed conquest, and later trades double entendres with a willing barmaid. ”The only battle I lost with the producers was over how much sex there was going to be,” says the 32 year old Singleton, who earned an Oscar nomination for ’91’s ”Boyz ‘N The Hood.” ”They said they didn’t want to offend any women. They didn’t want to offend anybody.” Singleton says that studio executives even frowned upon the saucy dialogue he added to the script, such as the crowd-pleasing line, ”It’s my duty to please that booty.” (Paramount declined EW.com’s request for a comment.)
Jackson, who also pushed for a nookie increase, argues that Rudin and screenwriter Richard Price (author of ”Clockers”), both white, didn’t understand the African-American perspective on sexuality. ”These guys had their own ideas about what a Shaft movie is, but they happened to be ethnically incorrect,” says the 51 year old actor. One scene Jackson rejected as ”offensive” featured his character tossing a candy bar at a gal pal when she complains that he won’t take her out for dinner.
Filming what little sex there is in ”Shaft” was just as problematic as the struggle to include it. When Jackson — who had already started work on his next film, ”The Caveman’s Valentine” — was unavailable to reshoot the explicit opening sequence in which Shaft caresses a lover’s nude body, Singleton called in a body double. Rumors circulated that the real reason for the stand-in was that Jackson’s complaining and tantrums on the set had become too much for the crew to handle. Singleton denies the charge, however, and Jackson told the Chicago Sun-Times that he was informed that he simply wasn’t needed to shoot the scene.
Despite losing their battle to get Shaft into the sack, Singleton and Jackson say they’d consider working on a sequel once the director finishes his next project, the ”Boyz ‘N the Hood” follow-up ”Baby Boy.” Even Rudin is eager to work with the pair again, noting that on-set grudges are quickly forgotten when everyone is satisfied with the finished product. Let’s hope the next time ”Shaft” comes to town he’s one sexy mother — shut yo mouth!