Vanessa Williams

Talks About Her
Role In Shaft

  As a new mom, you wouldn’t think beautiful Vanessa Williams would want to take on a physically challenging movie role where she has to get down and dirty, but that’s exactly what attracted her to the character Carmen in the new production of "Shaft."
  "It's an unpredictable choice and it's the reason why I wanted to do the movie. She's a cop and cops are worried about their lives and doing their job - not putting on make up and doing their hair. As Shaft's partner, there are situations that are life and death, and that's her job.
  "It's refreshing not to be in a glamorous role, to be able to put a bandana on, some Timberlands and some jeans and be able to go to work. It's nice that she's not a victim or an object of sexual desire. She's a woman that's respected as one of the guys."
  In Hollywood, Samuel L. Jackson draws a lot of interest, and a lot of actors greedy to work with him. It was no different for Vanessa.
  "I heard they were going to do a (new) 'Shaft.' Then, when I heard Sam was attached to it, I definitely wanted to go with it. I knew it was a supporting role. I just wanted to be part of the ensemble and I'm very happy."
  Being a part of the cast was thrilling for Vanessa, but all she really has to do is just think about the movie and her excitement shines through.
  "Once you hear those opening guitar licks, you're ready for the ride. It's infectious. The music has lasted for almost 30 years. I can put the CD in my car and my kids will get excited. Not knowing about the movie, the history or the image. It starts off with the music, which sets the scene, then you see Samuel's face, then you see the 'Shaft' title. People that have never seen 'Shaft' get excited and people that grew up with the image of Richard Roundtree being a black hero in Harlem, during a time when black films were truly a unique thing, get excited as well."
  In addition to her new role in "Shaft," Vanessa is also learning what it’s like to be the wife of NBA LA Laker star Rick Fox.
  "I'm a newcomer to this whole NBA wife thing. We don't all sit together or anything like that. As a wife, in general, I'm supportive. As a partner, I'm learning the dance of being on the opposite side of an athlete's experiences. It's similar to being a performer. If I have a bad show or I feel that the audience was not into it, I need to vent. So, I bring that home. So, I'm there to listen. If he wants advice, I’m there to give it. I'll be there, as a loving wife or partner should be. But I don't know everything and I don't ask everything."

Isaac Hayes

Shaft theme was a happy accident

  When Isaac Hayes heard what John Singleton had in mind for the new music for the new "Shaft," he had no problem saying yes.
  "John Singleton told me he wanted me to do the 'Shaft' theme exactly like it was done originally. Don't change a thing. If you do, you're going to offend the public. That's what they know. I agreed and it was on. It was so easy. With today’s tech the theme really stands out - more dramatic, more dynamic, because you hear everything now. I punched it up with the new technology and when you punch it, it bites. We didn't have all the stress that I had on the original. Before (the original) I had never done a movie score before. Isaac Hayes had never proven himself."
  According to Hayes, the original was a happy accident, or should we say coincidence of events.
  "I had never scored a movie before in my life! They gave me three reels of 16 mm. One when Shaft was walking through Harlem. The other one when he was making love to his woman Ellie. And the other one was when he came up out of the subway in the beginning of the movie. They said, go ahead and write something for this.
  "That’s like throwing a baby in the water and saying swim.
  "Be he did give me the view point. It turned out that Ellie’s love theme was easy to write. I did that in an hour. The montage of Shaft walking through Harlem, took about an hour. But the main character? I said, what can I do with this thing? As it turned out, I actually didn’t write it (the 'Shaft' theme) until all the other parts of the score were finished.
  "We were sitting there and I had an idea. I told Will Harlen to give me 16 notes on a high hat and that started something. I said to Skip my guitarist, ‘We were working on a piece a year ago. I didn’t know what to do with it so I put it up. Go get that piece.’ He pulled it out. and we played it. I said ‘You love that?’ He said, ‘Yeah, yeah.’ I said ‘Hook a wah, wah up to the guitar.’ He hooked it up and I got on my knees and put my hand on it and said I wanted it to go like this. He put his feet down on it and got a good feel for it. Once we added some drums and bass everything started falling into place.
  "The lyrics were easy to write. I had to put an edge on it though. ‘Who’s the black private dick whose the sex machine to all the chics? Shaft.’ And I censored myself and said, ‘This cat Shaft is a bad mother, shut your mouth.’ I did it that way, otherwise somebody would have told me to shut your mouth. It was a self censoring thing.
  "So that’s it. That’s how it all started. I would have bet you a million dollars against your one dollar that it wouldn’t have happened. I was convinced that it was just for that one time and that was it. I had no idea that it would go on like it has and take on a life of its own."


Rapper enjoyed "Shaft"
& praises

  When John Singleton told Busta Rhymes that he would be part of the cast on the set of the new "Shaft." He was more than happy to sign up. After completing the movie, Rhymes said it was an experience he'll never forget.
  "I got an opportunity to meet Vanessa Williams for the first time. I think she's a very beautiful woman, physically and as a person. She definitely provides a comfort level because of the positive energy she gives off.
  I was able to carry out whatever I had to carry out with my acting because I was comfortable. I didn't have to second guess sh*t or question myself. They (Vanessa, Samuel L. Jackson and director John Singleton) definitely made me feel I was in the right place amongst the dons. Because they're dons to me."