“Say, baby...can I be Your slave? I've got to admit girl, you're the sh*t girl and I'm digging you like a grave. Now, do they call you Daughter to the Spinning Pulsar…or maybe Queen of 10,000 moons?”
Darius Lovehall drew me in like a moth to his flame with his poetic endeavors. The scene was the spoken word night at a café frequented by young, hip black professionals and creatives, but the only people who felt like they were in that room, cast in silence suddenly as he spit what true game looks like in the form of a tight rap and a prose that would make any girl purse her lips together and fall into a swoon, knees buckled if he hadn’t made her weak there already.
“Talk that talk honey.
Walk that walk, money.
High on legs that’ll spite Jehovah…”
Nina Mosley was definitely like us, wrapped around the young poet’s finger, even if she didn’t want to admit it yet. She sat in the audience, utterly captivated by his bravado and the sweet honey that left his lips.
“Who am I?
Well, they call me Brotha to the night.
And right now, I’m the blues on your left thigh…trying to become the funk in your right…Is that all right?”
If you’re anything like me, you probably took his open-ended question and answered it with a resounding, “Hell yeah," while watching this movie. I do so, every single time. What can I say? I like a man who knows what he wants.
I will never forget how Love Jones made me feel, and that scene, that scene that’s now taken place on our screens and left its imprint on our hearts 20 years ago as of today, stood out to me and grabbed me the most. I had never seen anything like it. Unapologetic blackness that was spun in a way where there were expressions of art and creativity that bound these characters together and shaped them individually as they hustled through their day to days. Characters traded in the stereotypical Hollywood mold of criminality and highlighted a different reality, a reality that was a lot truer to most people.
I first saw Love Jones as a college student after years of letting the possibility of watching it fall by the wayside. Immediately, I was gripped by the way it told a story of art, black creativity, black friendships, and black love, and so realistically. I related to this group of young creatives, and I related to the way their love story played out with plenty of interludes due to miscommunication told over the sounds of an incredible jazz soundtrack. It was fresh, it was well-written and well-crafted, it was true to life, and it felt so black. I wasn't used to seeing a love story portrayed in that way with people who shared the same hue as me. It gave me faith in black love that I didn't realize I needed.
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In case you aren’t too keen on the backstory of the film beyond its hype, Love Jones tells the story of Darius Lovehall (played by Larenz Tate), a black man who happens to be a poet in Chicago who falls in love with a photographer (played by Nia Long), by the name of Nina Moseley. This dynamic duo (who literally look the exact same way they did 20 years ago, seriously black don’t crack!) take us through the ups and downs of their relationship, reminding us all that even if the perfect relationship doesn’t exist, good love does, and more than that, it’s worth fighting for. Always. Pride can be something serious to swallow, especially in situations where the ego is involved, but I won’t give too much away (in case you haven’t seen it).
20 years later, it’s hard to believe that Love Jones still continues to be a staple in every black family’s DVD collection.
Despite its popularity now, there are still many people who don’t know the many stories behind the scenes of this iconic film and here are just a few of them:
The Man Who Created The Film Was Only 24
Theodore “Ted” Witcher, the genius director behind Love Jones was ONLY 24 years old when he directed Love Jones, his first film by the way. Prior to his first film, he worked as a security guard at a local police station and also served as a production assistant for “The Jerry Springer Show”. After Love Jones, Ted only produced one other film and then disappeared into the distance. Can somebody go find him and tell him we need Love Jones II?
Jada Pinkett-Smith Was Supposed to Play Nina
As much as we love Nia Long and Larenz Tate together, believe it or not, Jada Pinkett-Smith was originally supposed to play the role of Nina. According to the director, he saw Jada on "A Different World" and felt she brought a different sensibility from other black actresses of her generation, but unfortunately she passed on the script.
Initially, Larenz Tate and The Director Didn’t Want to Work Together
Both Larenz Tate and Ted Witcher were both talented in their own right but believe it or not, the film almost never worked out between these two talents. Larenz wasn’t sure about working with a first time producer and Ted wasn’t sure if Larenz could handle the role. When Ted screen-tested Larenz, Ted’s female friends loved it and the rest is history. What would we have done without Larenz in this film?
The First Ending Was Scrapped Because Black Women Don’t Like To Get Their Hair Wet
The first ending of Love Jones initially had Nia Long standing in the rain while Larenz’s character pleaded for her love. During the screening of the movie, black women offered feedback that this scene was unrealistic because a black woman would never stand in the rain and risk getting her hair wet. Even Witcher had to weigh in on this one:
“We tested the movie, and most of the women in the audience didn’t believe a black woman would stand in the rain with her hair uncovered. This mortified me because we’re going for the big finish and you’re absorbed in this detail of whether her hair would get messed up? The studio [New Line Cinema] said, 'Reshoot,’ and we shot the scene under an L train track. I wanted to present a woman protagonist without vanity, which I thought would be refreshing, but I guess I failed.”
[...] On the one hand, I thought that was [messed] up and on the other hand I was mad at myself because I thought it was a failure that if I haven't locked you into this movie by this point such that some minor plot inconsistency is taking you out of the movie, then I have failed as a filmmaker. Apparently, for black women, the rain was a bridge too far ... and the studio's like, "Well, I guess we're reshooting the ending. That's for sure."
I was really upset at that. Really upset. Really. Just thinking about it, I remember getting those cards back and reading comment after comment after comment about the hair and I was, like, "The ... hair? Are you kidding me? Really? Her hair?" Apparently, “Yes. Really, ...yes, her hair. Get it right. Yes.”
Love Jones Was Considered a Flop
Everybody and their mama has seen Love Jones and despite the popularity amongst the African-American community, many have considered Love Jones to be a flop by Hollywood standards because the film only grossed $12 million at the box office. There were many reasons that attributed to the low box office numbers included the film's characters of "black intellectuals and creatives" was a different spin on the gangster movies that had gained popularity during that time. Actor Isiah Washington blames the lower than expected box office numbers on the black community not being fully ready for a black love or romance movie:
"There's no lewd sex, there’re no people drinking 40s, there's no drive-bys. But we were all dismayed trying to sell the film at that time because our own people were so used to the diet of Menace II Society and Boyz N the Hood. [Those] made so much money for the system at the time that we didn't open well.
The movie was considered a flop… It was considered a negative, and the town said we're not going to make any more movies like this ever again. And they didn't."
Larenze Tate blames it on the studio not knowing how to market the film:
"We were at a time with movies like Boyz N the Hood, Menace II Society, Set It Off, right? They know how to market those movies. What about a movie in which no one gets hurt? The only thing that gets hurt is someone's heart."
20 years later, the movie is considered a staple and classic in black households. I'd say that's far from a flop!
I think it’s safe to say that Love Jones happened for a reason and can only hope Love Jones II will happen for us too one day. And if they need the funding, we got GoFundMe and Kickstarter on speed dial. And that's urgent like a motherfucker.
Catch the full interview with the cast over at LA Times
What's your favorite scene from Love Jones? Let's take a walk down memory lane in the comments down below.