Allen Hughes has made a lasting imprint in the documentary world with HBO’s “The Defiant Ones.”
For the director, writer and executive producer of the four-part documentary—that HBO is keen on stressing is “event viewing” and will air in successive order, July 10, July 11 and July 12—the journey started almost five years ago, when he pitched the idea to the president of HBO and 90 seconds later it was approved.
“It was one of the fastest green-lights that I ever received,” stated Hughes. “Then it took years to complete.”
Set amid many of the defining events of the past four decades, “The Defiant Ones” tells the stories of two men —Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine; one Black, one white, both from different tough neighborhoods, and explores their improbable partnership and surprising leading roles in a series of transformative events in contemporary culture.
Storyteller Hughes digs deep and keeps the pacing of the journey slick, taking us into the recording studios, homes, criminal courts and in the highest corridors of corporate power.
All because the subjects happily provided Hughes with unfettered access (over a three-year period) in making the documentary, and everyone who participated spoke frankly about the good and the bad of their lives, including Snoop Dogg, Bruce Springsteen, Gwen Stefani, Bono, David Geffen, Eminem, Nas, Stevie Nicks, Kendrick Lamar, Ice Cube, Jon Landau, Patti Smith, Lady Gaga, Doug Morris, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Diddy, Alonzo Williams and will.i.am.
Under Hughes’ direction the explosive series also features never-before-seen footage from a multitude of recording and writing sessions with Eazy-E, JJ Fad, Stevie Nicks, N.W.A., Tom Petty, The D.O.C., Bruce Springsteen and U2, among others.
Here is a brief excerpt from an hourlong interview with Hughes about the making of “The Defiant Ones.”
AmNews: How long did it take to make “The Defiant Ones?
Hughes: Wow! I thought it would take one year. It did not. It took three years. That was surprising to me. It consumed me. There is no working script. You don’t know what’s going to happen.
AmNews: Episode one. The prologue where the Apple deal almost fell apart, what an exciting opening!
Hughes: Thank you. I was already shooting the documentary when the Facebook leak with Dr. Dre and Tyrese celebrating the billion-dollar deal was all over the net. I thought that I did not have a film anymore. But then I realized that it was the best way to open the movie because it showed that this film was not bullshit. These guys were going to revel and be vulnerable and open up. I wanted to send the signal—right away—this is not going to be your run-of-the mill doc.
AmNews: When this is all said and done, after it’s had its run on HBO, do you think you will use “The Defiant Ones” as a teaching tool? The filmmaking is extraordinary and the life lessons that are shared, I feel, are important for others to see.
Hughes: Yes. Anytime someone wants to show a film and have a Q&A, I love that. I love talking to students—even if they are older than me—any student that wants to learn about film, they teach me as I am engaging with them. So absolutely, that would be great.
AmNews: Duly noted. What I took away from Jimmy’s story, in episode one, is to follow your passion because if you do not, you should not be surprised when you keep getting fired. Thoughts?
Hughes: (laughing) Oh, that is so true, right? My advice. Find out what your calling is, early, and you won’t be getting fired like that! You are right. It’s a great lesson learned.
“The Defiant Ones,” an HBO Event Documentary, will be shown on successive nights, July 9, 10, 11 and 12.