LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Mario Van Peebles got his first break acting opposite Clint Eastwood in the 1986 war film “Heartbreak Ridge” and parlayed that success into a prolific career both acting and directing.
Van Peebles’ latest acting and directing project, “We The Party,” is a raucous, multi-cultural comedy about a group of teenagers coming of age during America’s first black presidency. In the U.S., it is rated “R,” restricting kids under 17-years-old from seeing it without a parent or guardian.
In theaters this Friday, April 6, the film is a real family affair and co-stars Van Peebles, several of his children, his famous father, director Melvin Van Peebles (the subject of Mario’s 2003 movie “Baadasssss!”). Rapper Snoop Dogg also puts in an appearance
Van Peebles, whose credits include “New Jack City” and “21 Jump Street,” and his son Mandela, who stars in “We the Party” spoke with Reuters about making the film.
Q: Is it true that this film was inspired by your own teenage kids?
Mario: “It’s absolutely true. I was trying to write something else, and my kids kept playing this loud music upstairs. I went up to tell them to turn it down and then Mandela said he wanted to hit some special teenage clubs with his brothers and sisters.”
Mandela: “We asked him if he’d give us a ride, and he said ‘Nope. But if I drive you I’m going in.’”
Mario: “And he said it wasn’t cool to go as their dad - why didn’t I go pretending to be a member of their security team, going ‘incognegro’ basically. So I went in and it was amazing. Everything was moving so much quicker. They’re tweeting, texting, slow-dancing - all simultaneously. It got me thinking about “House Party” which was black and “The Breakfast Club” which was white, and I thought - let’s do it with everybody in 2012 and what it’s like now. So I started taking notes.”
Q: So how out of touch did you feel?
Mario: (Laughs) “It was like the club I would have wanted to go to when I was a teen. It was like getting a lap dance in some of these clubs - it was crazy! Now some parents cover their ears and eyes and say, ‘I just don’t wanna know.’ But I’ve always been, ‘I wanna know - and maybe I’ll film it.’ Honestly, I wanted them to be safe, and then secretly I probably wanted to hang out with my kids some more, but there’s that age where they don’t want to hang out with you.”
Q: How embarrassing was it having your dad tag along?
Mandela: “He’s a pretty fun guy so it’s not embarrassing to me - it’s more other kids. I’m used to it.”
Mario: “And I let them be them. I let them talk like they talk. I didn’t make it (the film) rated PG. It’s how they talk. But kids were probably never PG. Think about it - ‘The Breakfast Club,’ R. ‘Sixteen Candles,’ R, ‘Fast Times at Ridgemont High,’ R. So we have a film that’s R, but I think there’s also some good nutritional value. It’s got some things to say and it’s got some heart to it.”
Q: I hear you shot the big party scene at your own house. Are you crazy?
Mario: “I was sort of tricked into it.”
Mandela: “Here’s what happened. He’s a light spender, and for our birthdays he gave me and my brother a little bit of money and we figured, that’s not enough. How do we make more? So we hired a DJ, got a bunch of drinks - non-alcoholic - and threw this huge mad party, and made a ton of money.”
Mario: “And I used all that as inspiration for the movie. He was dating a girl ... and he’d always be online with her.
Q: Any funny stories about Snoop Dogg?
Mario: “Every Snoop story is funny. I just did his show and said this: ‘There’s three loves in your life. Do what you love, work with people you love, and try to say something you love with it,’ and I’ve been able to do that with this movie. And I think Snoop’s found that in his life. You can tell he just enjoys being who he is. You’re not gonna change who he is. He’s real and is that guy. So I just let Snoop do Snoop, and he came with his son, who plays the DJ in the movie.”
Q: This is like a Van Peebles reunion, as your dad’s also in it, along with his grandkids. So nepotism is alive and well in Hollywood.
Mario: (laughs) “Well, my kids aren’t expensive, and they work hard.”
Mandela: “It was a blast, but honestly? It’s an everyday thing with him. He is our dad, so we see him 24/7. So if we don’t know our lines, he’s gonna drill us in the car! A lot of people might think ‘nepotism,’ but it kind of evolved from factual things that happened in our family.”
Mario: “The characters were inspired by them, and then they pulled all their friends in, so it felt very natural. It’s a fun family video - in some ways. If people go to it just expecting fun, music and dancing, they get a lot more.”
Reporting By Bob Tourtellotte