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Danny Glover's Toussaint L'Ouverture Film That Never Was, But Could Still Be

Shadow and Act By Courtney | Shadow and Act July 27, 2012 at 6:34PM

When Tambay spoke to Danny Glover about his long-in-development Toussaint L'Ouverture film last fall, this is what he had to say:
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Jimmy Jean-Louis In TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE
Jimmy Jean-Louis In TOUSSAINT LOUVERTURE

When Tambay spoke to Danny Glover about his long-in-development Toussaint L'Ouverture film last fall, this is what he had to say:

We're still working on it; we're in one of those periods where the idea is still alive and still resonates out there; we just have to get all the resources together to make it happen, and we believe, I believe it's still a signature piece of our company and a piece we want most to happen.

And when asked about the challenges he must have been facing in trying to get a film on this subject matter financed and produced, he laughed and added:

You don't want to hear those stories man... the stories I could write a book on... just on the process of trying to make a film about the Haitian revolution; but the project is still alive.

Of course we're now all familiar with Philippe Niang's French-produced made-for-tv 2-part movie on Toussaint L'Ouverture, starring Jimmy Jean-Louis as the title character (above), and Aïssa Maïga (Paris, Je T'Aime, Bamako) as Toussaint's wife, Suzanne, and Sonia Rolland (Moloch TropicalMidnight In Paris) as Marie-Eugénie Sonthonax, wife of abolitionist L.F. Sonthonax.

Niang's film still hasn't been officially released outside of France, except screenings at international film festivals, so very few have actually seen it which is unfortunate.

My guess is that it'll be released on DVD and VOD eventually. I won't be surprised if it's already online in full or in bits and pieces.

Skip ahead to May of this year, just 2 months ago, and this profile of Danny Glover in the UK Guardian newspaper, which I came across just today, in which Glover reveals some information about his Toussaint project that I thought was worth sharing, if only to help keep hope alive on the project.

The key part of the Guardian profile is this piece:

For more than 30 years, Glover has been trying to make a biopic about the leader of the Haitian revolution. True, the story of L'Ouverture has been told before, notably in a play by CLR James that was staged in London's West End in 1936 starring Paul Robeson, and more recently in a French TV series starring Haitian actor Jimmy Jean-Louis. But Glover believes his treatment will be the first to "have the epic scale these events require".

But when will we see this directorial debut? In 2006, Glover assembled a cast including Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mos Def, and planned to shoot his film in South Africa and Venezuela, thanks to $18m (£11m) from one of Glover's heroes, Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez.

Six years on, filming has not started. "We'll get the film done," says Glover. "We came so close so many times, you could almost taste it, man. We came that close and we're going to do it."

So we learn here that Glover believes his project will be the first to have "the epic scale" a movie about Toussaint L'Ouverture deserves.

It means then that he's seen Niang's 2-part film and doesn't feel that it has that desired "epic" quality. I haven't been able to see Niang's film, so I can't say. You people who have seen it can chime in on that.

And how about the cast he had assembled for his film, as recently as 2006, that included Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Mos Def.

Although I believe Don Cheadle was also part of that cast, and in the starring role, even though the Guardian profile doesn't mention it.

One has to wonder what happened there exactly, when he received $18 million from Hugo Chavez to begin the project in 2006. That was a nice boost, although I'd guess that it probably wasn't enough. 

And despite all the setbacks, Glover still seems determined to get this film made, which is wonderful.
 

When asked why the project is so important to him, he said:

"Imagine a revolt where all those people who were enslaved and dispossessed in Africa, America and round the world, heard what had happened? You imagine what that meant to them?"

So now you know; as of 2 months ago, the project isn't dead. But it doesn't apear to be a sure-thing either; though he seems committed to seeing it come to fruition, eventually.

One would assume that he'd now be looking at another set of younger actors, since the actors he wanted to use previously are all 6 years older - a figure that could be even higher if another several years go by and the film doesn't get made.

Who would you be looking at to play Toussaint L'Ouverture today?

This article is related to: Danny Glover


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