Dave Chappelle, it turns out, was the inspiration for a memorable scene in Dolemite Is My Name in which Wesley Snipes’ character, D’Urville Martin, questions the ability of a young white cinematographer to film mostly black actors.
The Eddie Murphy film’s screenwriters, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, walked us through the origin of the scene—and explained a lot about their writing process—for the MovieMaker interviews podcast. You can listen to them on Apple, Spotify, or Stitcher, or listen right here:
In Dolemite Is My Name, Martin, an actor and first-time director, questions Murphy’s Rudy Ray Moore on the wisdom of employing an inexperienced white cinematographer, Nicholas Josef von Sternberg. (Dolemite Is My Name doesn’t explicitly name him, or explain that moviemaking is in his blood: He’s the son of the famed Josef von Sternberg.) Martin wonders if Nicholas knows how to film black actors.
“You need a DP that knows how to shoot black peoples,” Snipes’ Martin says. “It’s not racist, it’s a fact. Look, look, look. Black people absorb light. White people reflect light. It’s a cinemagical reality.”
As Alexander and Karaszewski explain on the podcast, they were shooting the comedy Screwed with Dave Chappelle and Norm MacDonald twenty years ago when a very similar conversation ensued. They said Chappelle wryly made sure no one on set forgot the concept of “Black people absorb light. White people reflect light.”
We recommend checking out the entire interview, because the screenwriters, often known as just Scott and Larry, also take us through their entire incredible collaboration, detailing how they wrote Ed Wood, The People vs. Larry Flynt, Man on the Moon, Big Eyes, The People v. O.J. Simpson, and, of course, Dolemite Is My Name.
Here are some highlights of the episode, with timestamps:
1:12: Our interview begins with Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. Host Tim Molloy speaks first, then Scott says “the early ’80s,” then Larry speaks.
1:48: Scott and Larry praise the genre films of Herschell Gordon Lewis.
2:35: Shout out to Los Angeles’ Nuart and New Beverly theaters.
3:22: How Larry started gaming Scott from the first day they met.
4:19: Scott explains his and Larry’s obsession with “indie genre cult movies.”
8:20: Who types, and who sits on the couch.
12:06: Scott and Larry explain the importance of funny voices in their process.
14:13: Diving into Ed Wood.
14:50: Meeting Larry Flynt.
15:30: Working with Margaret Keane on Big Eyes.
15:58: Being journalists to research Andy Kaufman for Man on the Moon.
17:30: How People v. O.J. Simpson was unique.
21:30: How Dave Chappelle contributed to Wesley Snipes’ dialogue scene in Dolemite Is My Name… and whether Dave Chappelle knows.
24:57: Mel Brooks calls.
27:30: A fantastic Village People story.
30:18: Scott and Larry’s simple advice to screenwriters.
34:30: The interesting interplay between Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood and Dolemite Is My Name.
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