Allen Hughes: Here’s Who I Am
For a twelve year old it was as simple as receiving your very own video camera for the first time. Being able to capture a dream in motion was as easy as pushing play. And being able to share that moment with the very person you’ve shared every other aspect of your life was as easy as taking a stroll in the park, until everything changed.
When you’ve been a part of a successful team for more than 20 years, it’s hard to imagine yourself breaking out on your own to pursue a career the way you’ve always imagined doing it. When you’ve been a part of that dynamic duo since birth, it’s even harder to step out on a ledge where everyone knows your name as a twosome. After a friendly separation from his twin brother and co-director, Albert, Allen Hughes has navigated through the ups and downs of directing with out his twin brother by his side the entire way.
Allen and Albert began making movies at the age of 12 when their mother, Aida, gave them their very first video camera. Starting their formal film education their freshman year, Hughes took a TV production class and was hooked ever since, bringing his brother, Albert, along for the ride. They soon made a short film entitled “How To Be A Burglar” and people finally started to take notice. The brothers soon dropped out of high school in the 11th grade to pursue their dreams head on. The boys ended up directing music videos for rappers such as Tupac Shakur, Tone-Loc and Digital Underground. The duo also began having their films air on cable where the film “The Drive By” landed them an agent and established their reputation as innovative filmmakers. Their new founded success allowed the twins to focus on raising almost $3 million, which permitted the twins to make their debut feature film “Menace II Society” at the age of 20. Although the film’s aggressiveness took audiences by shock, the gritty movie became a surprise hit and earned nearly $30 million at the box office for being a realistic depiction of urban violence.
The brothers continued to work as a team for the next few years, producing “Dead Presidents” in 1995 and “American Pimp” in 1999. But, while shooting “From Hell” with Johnny Depp the following year, something changed between the two. Opinions between the two clashed and they aired their differences on set, which was a sign of the first stirrings for independence. The twins took a nine-year break to chase their individual projects like commercials and music videos. But, with another chance came the “Book of Eli” which starred Denzel Washington. The movie was a box office hit, but the Hughes’ relationship suffered its final blow. Allen said their parting was civil and mutual. “It became real clear after Book of Eli. We had a session together and it was pretty clear,” he recalled.
The need to become an independent reared its sibling rivalry head. Pushing Allen to become his own person apart from his brother. “You can’t feel who you are until you experience things without the crutch of your brother being around,” he said. During the process of identifying his own voice as an individual filmmaker, Allen decided to accept his shortcomings on the technical side and rely on his crew for certain technical decisions. With Albert out of the picture, Allen was still able to focus on his strengths of narrative and finding actors to play the roles in his films. “I’ve just given in to the fact that I don’t understand that sh*t, “ he said referring to details like lens sizes. “I’m never gonna be the numbers guy. And at 40-years-old they say you should try to work on your weaknesses and whatever, but there are certain weaknesses that cant be worked on.”
Going on to produce his first solo film as a director, Allen was able to pull big shots like Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones to star in his film “Broken City.” “I think my future career has just began,” the producer said. “Broken City represents just the first step in many. This was my attempt at establishing myself and getting a rhythm.” At the age of 40, finally being able to define yourself through your work and being able to stand strong in saying ‘this is who I am and who I’ve always been’ is a pleasure most would take fore granted. There will always be who you are, what you want to be, and what people think you are, at the end of the day if they all sync up then you are blessed beyond recognition.