As presented in the Dionne Warwick documentary “Dionne Warwick: Don’t Make Me Over,” the Grammy Award-winning vocalist used her clout to call out Snoop Dogg and Suge Knight during a sit-down talk about the notable misogyny of some hip-hop lyrics.
“A lot of the things that were spewing out of their mouths were not necessary,” Warwick told TheWrap’s Beatrice Verhoeven in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival in which she was joined by the film’s directors, Dave Wooley and David Heilbroner. She told the rappers that they should watch their words because some day they might be parents, and “‘One of those children might be a little girl,'” Warwick said she told them
“It gave them food for thought,” she said.
The encounter was just one example of what Warwick, 80, an outspoken activist for the AIDS crisis, described as a “straight up honesty” when it comes to standing up for right against wrong, even in front of a tough “gangsta” audience. “I am a gangsta,” she said, clearly delighted by the concept.
In the documentary, she declares that she’s the person who finally got Ronald Reagan to say the word AIDS out loud at a news conference. “We didn’t have a face on AIDS until Rock Hudson,” she said. The closeted gay actor was diagnosed in 1984 and disclosed his illness in 1985.
Both of the filmmakers agreed that if you don’t want an honest answer from Warwick, well, don’t ask the question. “Dionne sets the bar way up here,” Wooley said. “She’ll tell it to you straight, and you’d better step up. We had to keep that in mind, and it was intimidating … Because we couldn’t put everything in 95 minutes, once we kind of narrowed down a structured framework, it became really easy and very clear.”
Said Heilbroner said the biggest challenge to telling Warwick’s story was “there are about 10 documentaries in this woman, which one do you make?”
Warwick said she had been approached several times over the years about doing a documentary, but it was always too soon. Finally, after 60 years in the industry, she joked that she might just have something to say. She also said firmly that no subject was off limits: “I have nothing to hide.”
Heilbron called Warwick “someone who has stood for integrity for decades,” adding that her straightforward character made him confident that he could get a passle of A-listers to appear in the film, including Bill Clinton and the aforementioned Snoop Dogg. He joked that the documentary must be the first time “both Snoop Dogg and a president of the United States had been in one film.”
Listening to Warwick speaking with passion about stepping forward to fight AIDS before it was popular to do so, Helibroner changed his mind about something mentioned earlier in the discussion.
“Maybe there are 11 documentaries” to be mined from Warwick’s story, he said with a laugh.
To see the full interview, watch the video above