12 Poetic Justice movie facts you didn’t know about
27 years ago, John Singleton’s cult classic, Poetic Justice was released. It centered on the development of a unique love story between Justice, played by Janet Jackson and Lucky, played by Tupac Shakur.
On a trip to Oakland, the two go from hating one another to falling for one another through poetry, events that transpire during the journey, and their unfiltered conversation.
While the film didn’t get as much critical acclaim as Singleton’s first film, Boyz N The Hood, it is one of the most revered love stories of the 90s. As we celebrate this classic film, here are 12 Poetic Justice movie facts you didn’t know about…or maybe you did.
Tupac Shakur wasn’t the first choice for the lead role.
In an interview with Power 105.1, Director John Singleton revealed that the lead role Tupac Shakur masterfully fulfilled wasn’t always meant for him. Ice Cube was initially offered the role of Lucky but the rapper/actor turned it down.
“I was going to do Poetic Justice. I was putting it all together. Janet [Jackson] was already in. Originally, Ice Cube was supposed to be in it, and Ice Cube didn’t want to be in a romance,” Singleton explained.
The poems Justice recited were written by Maya Angelou.
The late Maya Angelou wrote the poems that were recited in the film by the titular character. Singleton reached out to the writer when he was having trouble writing poetry. “I thought, ‘I’m reading these poems by Maya Angelou; why not use her poems?’ But I had to get her permission,” he recalled to the Hollywood Reporter.
He met with her and after the two bonded she gave him permission to use her poetry in the film and also star in the movie. “I had her improv most of her dialogue because, how am I going to write the way she speaks? She speaks so beautifully. I tried to push her to do four or five takes. And after four takes, she said, ‘Mr. Singleton, I will not be doing any more improv.'”
Maya Meet Justice
Singleton named his daughter, Justice Maya Singleton, after Maya Angelou and the film. Justice is his oldest child and she was born 1992 a year prior to the film’s release date.
Before Usher was Usher
Before Usher Raymond hit the charts he made his first appearance on the film’s soundtrack. He appeared on “Call Me a Mack” at 14 years old, one year before his debut album was released.
Justice was made for Janet Jackson
There weren’t many films back then with a black female lead so naturally every actress of the 90s was vying for the role. It is even rumored that Jada Pinkett Smith auditioned for Justice. However, in an interview with Essence magazine, Singleton said he “wrote it for Janet. When I first met her I told her I wanted to do my next movie with her. Critics and frustrated sisters hated on her but I understood it; not that many movies came out with Black female leads.”
While the role of Justice was created for Janet Jackson, she needed help transforming into the around-the-way hairdresser. First Singleton made Jackson gain 10 pounds, watch Sophia Loren in Two Women and apprentice in a South Central hair salon for a day. He also had her spend time with a few of his homegirls from his old neighborhood. That relationship turned into two of the women becoming background dancers for Janet’s tour.
Janet Jackson’s iconic braids
Box braids, poetic justice braids, Janet Jackson braids, whatever you want to call them, they were popularized by the film. And that’s from the help of Singleton, Janet, dance choreographer Fatima Robinson and, a dancer named Josie Harris.
Harris had the braids in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video, which Singleton directed and while he had them hanging with Janet to help transform her into an around the way girl he also suggested they do Janet’s hair like Josie’s. “We got the hairstyle from Harlem and just put it in a West Coast movie,” he said in an interview.
Second Time is another classic.
John Singleton won his first Academy Award nominee, making him the youngest black person ever to be nominated, for Boyz in the Hood. And while Poetic Justice wasn’t as critically acclaimed as his second film, it still goes down as a classic.
Infamous Aids test…yes we all know this.
Q-Tip confirmed allegations that Janet Jackson demanded that Tupac get an AIDS test before they kissed in the movie. And while Singleton didn’t deny the rumor he did downplay the seriousness of her request.
“That was a joke that we used to have on set, because the real talk is Tupac was attracted to Janet, I was attracted to Janet. We’re on the set, we’re both trying to flirt with her and then I was like, ‘I don’t know if I should have him kissing on my actress when you’ve been f—king around, because you know Pac was just coming and going then,'” he said. “Then, I was like better yet you gonna have to do an AIDS test before y’all do this love scene [but] it was a joke.”
However while Singleton found it funny, Pac, who also confirmed the rumor, did not. “I did not disagree if we were really going to make love,” he told MTV News. “But if I’m gonna do a love scene with her just like somebody else did and they didn’t take a test, I’m not taking a test.”
Art imitating life?
At the very beginning of the film Justice’s boyfriend gets killed and before the films over Lucky’s cousin get killed. Well in real life two actors from the film were killed. Dedrick D. Gobert, who starred in both Poetic Justice and Boyz N The Hood’ was killed shortly after the film’s release. Gobert was one of two men shot and killed following a fight over a drag race in Los Angeles in 1994.
The next death happened to Lloyd Avery II. He also starred in both of Singleton’s first two films as well as the Wayan brothers’ film Don’t Be a Menace To South Central. However, in 2001 he was sent to prison for a double homicide and in 2005 he was killed by his cellmate.
Make a thug cry
During her time on set, Angelou had a heart-to-heart moment with Tupac that led to him shedding some tears. Angelous, who didn’t know who he was, overheard him cursing and said to him, ‘When was the last time anyone told you how important you are?’ Did you know people stood on auction blocks and were bought and sold so that you could stay alive today?” Angelou said in an interview.
Apparently her honesty moved him so much he started weeping in her arms.
While the film was not critically acclaimed its music was. Janet Jackson’s song “Again” was nominated for an Academy Award and Golden Globe for best song.