TIFF 2018: George Tillman Jr. On Adapting Book 'The Hate U Give' To The Big Screen
Since the mega success of 1997’s Soul Food, director George Tillman Jr. has been telling stories that enable people to deeply examine their own lives and their connections with others. He's directed Notorious and The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, and he’s also worked diligently as a producer films like Mudbound and the Barbershop franchise. Now the prolific filmmaker is bringing Angie Thomas’ stunning novel The Hate U Give to the big screen. The narrative centers around Black teenager Starr Carter, and her experiences participating in activism paralleling the Black Lives Matter movement.
Following the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Shadow and Act sat down to chat with Tillman about why this was a story he felt compelled to tell, and what he’s uncovered over the course of his career. For Tillman, the entry point into Starr’s world was first sparked by Thomas’ novel.
"When the book came to me it wasn't published," Tillman told Shadow and Act. "Angie was still in the process of editing the book. I got it really early — in January 2016. I was working with Cheo Hodari Coker, who I did Notorious with. He wanted me to do an episode . I went out to Brooklyn, and the book came to me in my second week of shooting."
"I didn't have a lot of time, but I did read the first chapter," he said. "The first chapter starts off at the party where Starr's hanging out. She says, 'I don't know if I'm supposed to be at this party.' She was uncomfortable, and I thought, 'Wow, I’ve never seen a story about a young 16-year-old, African American dealing with identity issues.'"
"As I kept reading it, the dialogue and the language reminded me of a party I went to years ago in my high school times, and a shooting happened," Tillman recalled. "The way (Angie) caught that, and the themes — I was just blown away. I had to get on the phone with her right away. We talked maybe two weeks after that. We went through how I saw the movie, the important characters, the voice, the theme. We completely connected. Then I was able to sell it to Fox at that point."
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