Allen Hughes Explains Why Tupac Was the Biggest Challenge in Making ‘The Defiant Ones’

TheWrap Emmy magazine: After showing the late rapper’s family an early cut, he says, they were “very, very, very adamant that we not do it that way”

Last Updated: June 15, 2018 @ 1:31 PM

This story about “The Defiant Ones” first appeared in the Miniseries/Movies issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.

Don’t count Allen Hughes among those who “Forget About Dre.” The “Book of Eli” director’s four-part HBO documentary “The Defiant Ones” profiles hip-hop superproducer Dr. Dre and Interscope Records co-founder Jimmy Iovine, covering their careers both individually and when they joined forces in 2008.

The series was in the works when Dr. Dre’s Beats was acquired by Apple Music, though the deal hit a snag when Dre made a video with Tyrese Gibson in which he bragged that he was going to become the first hip-hop billionaire.

How close did the Apple/Beats deal actually come to crumbling because of that Tyrese video?
It was very close. I started shooting three weeks before that. I didn’t know anything about the deal. I remember Jimmy [Iovine] just saying, “Get your cameras ready for something,” but he wouldn’t tell me what it was.

And I remember talking to Dre earlier that day — it must have been about lunchtime. He said, “You didn’t hear?” And he told me that the news [of Apple buying Beats for $3 billion] leaked. We were meant to do a pre-interview that night. I said, “Dre, don’t call me for 48 hours.”

And then that night he went to dinner with the guys, and they ended up in the studio and that’s what happened — the Tyrese thing.

What was the hardest footage to get or to clear?
The Tupac Estate was — and I know them, they’re all old friends — but there was some stuff with him at the gun range that they were precious about. My original cut is not the way it [eventually aired]. The family and the estate were really sensitive about taking things out of context when it came to weapons in his hands, you know?

He was at a shooting range and it was pretty explosive in the original cut, and they were very, very, very adamant that we not do it that way.

And who was the hardest individual to pin down?
Patti Smith. Patti doesn’t do interviews. The movie was cut and done and she wasn’t even in it, and there was still a good chapter on her. And then at the 11th hour she wanted to do it because of what she felt for Jimmy Iovine. The film was done and then we opened it back up to put her in it.

What made you structure it the way you did, in four parts?
I asked for five parts, and my executive at HBO [EVP of programming Nina Rosenstein] said, “How about four?” [Laughs] So, that was that.

Jimmy and Dre were very uncomfortable going past one feature-length part because they didn’t want to overstay their welcome. They felt like it was egotistical. I’m like, “No, guys. There’s your story, Jimmy, there’s your story, Dre, and then there’s when you get together, that’s a whole ‘nother movie.”

There was a year and a half of it not being decided on, even though I knew what it was. I remember saying to Nina, “Part 3 is gonna be feature-length if I do four.” And it was kind of cool the way it worked out because Part 1 is under an hour, Part 2 is just a little bit over an hour, Part 3 is a feature-length — I think it’s an hour and 27 minutes — and then Part 4 goes back down to an hour again.

Read more of TheWrap Emmy magazine’s Miniseries/Movies issue here.

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