ALLEN HUGHES ▼
Acclaimed filmmaker Allen Hughes’ major leap into the entertainment industry came with his and twin brother Albert’s jolting debut as the 20 year-old creators/directors of “MENACE II SOCIETY.” The film’s compelling, realistic look at inner-city life garnered international critical acclaim and put them on the map as major filmmakers. In October 2012 on the eve of the film’s 20th anniversary, Allen and his brother were honored with a Guinness World Record for being the youngest directors/producers to release a major Hollywood motion picture at the time of the film’s release.
Born in Detroit, Michigan, to a mother highly supportive of her sons’ creativity, Allen began making home movies at age 12. Although Allen and his brother had been making short films at home, it wasn’t until Allen took a TV production class in high school that his flair for storytelling and natural filmmaking abilities were first recognized. After he made a short film entitled “How To Be A Burglar,” Allen’s teacher realized he had talent beyond his years and linked him in with the city’s public access channel. Allen went on to produce and star in three shows for the channel, which helped introduce him to a wider audience and he and his brother began directing music videos shortly after.
It was on the set of a music video that Allen met and befriended the late rapper Easy- E, who had been a big influence on Allen growing up not just because of his music, but because of the ways he dealt with theme and concept as a storyteller. Allen credits Easy-E with teaching him how to set himself apart from others and harvest his uniqueness. He and his brother went on to become successful music video directors for artists including NWA and Digital Underground. They are also responsible for shaping the image of Tupac Shakur at the start of his career, directing Shakur’s first three music videos, most notably for his solo debut single, the award-winning “Brenda’s Got A Baby.”
With the making of a short film entitled “Menace,” about a bank robbery getaway, and “The Drive By,” he and his brother’s reputation as innovative filmmakers began to take root. Their work attracted other filmmakers, who approached them to direct features. But they couldn’t seem to find the right project, so they created their own. Thus came “Menace II Society,” which at age 19 was their first film to be greenlit, and made its world premiere at the 1993 Cannes Film Festival. With a budget of roughly $3 million, they took a story they came up with at age 14 and turned it into a motion picture that grossed nearly $30 million at the box-office.
The film would make them the first major motion picture directors born out of Hip- Hop culture to make a film that reflected that. “Menace” was chosen as one of the 10 best films of the year by several major critics across the country, and received Best Picture honors at the 1994 MTV Movie Awards.
The Hughes’ follow-up film, “DEAD PRESIDENTS,” written by award-winning playwright Michael Henry Brown, and starring Larenz Tate, Chris Tucker, Bokeem Woodbine, Seymour Cassel, Martin Sheen, Keith David and N’Bushe Wright, was the story of a young man’s life which turns to shambles after he is sent to war in Vietnam. Expecting to return home as a hero, the young man instead finds himself reduced to pulling off an armored car robbery in order to support his family. The film made its debut at the New York Critics Film Festival in 1995.
Their next film was the feature-length documentary “AMERICAN PIMP,” which examined the men behind the world’s oldest profession. For the documentary, the Hughes interviewed both retired and working pimps from almost every major city across the country. “American Pimp” made its debut at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. In 2001, they released “FROM HELL,” the Jack the Ripper biopic starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, set in 1880s England and based on an investigation into the Jack the Ripper murders and their alleged link to the Royal family. “From Hell” was their first film to open #1 at the weekend box office.
In 2010, they released, “THE BOOK OF ELI,” starring Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman which told the tale of a lone hero’s journey as he fights his way across the wasteland of post-apocalyptic America. In 2013, Allen made his solo feature directing debut with “BROKEN CITY,” a political corruption drama starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Allen’s debut as executive producer came with the USA Networks television series “TOUCHING EVIL,” starring Jeffrey Donovan, Vera Farmiga and then newcomer Bradley Cooper. He also directed the pilot. In addition to his vision as a filmmaker, Allen has proven his talents in the music field. The first two soundtracks he and Albert produced, “Menace II Society” and “Dead Presidents,” both went platinum.