Tyler Perry is nothing if not prolific. The writer, director, producer and actor has put out 11 films since 2005 and collectively they have grossed over $600 million domestic. And Friday his 12th film will hit theaters, "Good Deeds." That will be followed by two more films in 2012: "The Marriage Counselor" (July 27) and "Madea's Witness Protection" (TBD). Whatever your opinion of his films themselves, you have to respect his passion. With his Atlanta studios, popular touring stage plays and lucrative TBS sitcoms, Perry is incredibly well off and could slow down whenever he'd like. No, whether you like it or not, he's got a lot more to say.
As a writer and director, Perry has two specific type of films he appears to be centering on. The first is the broad comedy with a slight social/dramatic edge that makes up the "Madea" franchise. The second are strict melodramas that focus on social dynamics he sees within the African-American community. The latter are often soapy, but for every cliche driven storyline Perry will do something -- usually in the script -- that completely surprises and show's he much more talented than his naysayers would make you believe. And the underrated "For Colored Girls" shows he can not only be a moving filmmaker, but display vision as well (Intriguingly, Perry purposely removed his name from the marketing to try and reach a different audience and it ended up receiving his best reviews to date). That's why Perry has always been a fascinating interview to me. He's clearly gotten better over time ("Madea's Big Happy Family" was shockingly funny at times) and beyond his filmmaking skills, his onscreen acting skills have improved considerably outside of his signature Madea character. It's one reason Summit Entertainment was willing to invest rebooting the Alex Cross franchise with Perry taking over the role once played by Morgan Freeman in "Along Came A Spider" and "Kiss the Girls." (More on that later).
In "Good Deeds," Perry is center stage as Wesley Deeds, a wealthy San Francisco businessman who is trying to save his family's corporation from an out of control brother ("Men of a Certain Age's" Brian White) and live up to his mother's expectations by marrying a cold, but beautiful wife (Gabrielle Union). Deeds has a series of run ins with one of his company's cleaning people (Thandie Newton in near tears "Crash" mode) and the two eventually find an attraction to each other that everyone in the theater will see coming a mile away. Unlike most of Perry's previous work, it turns out the script for "Deeds" was inspired by contemplating the choices he'd made regarding his career and his personal life.
"I was reflecting on 40. I'm so happy my life came out the way it did. I listened to my own heart, my own ideas. I didn't listen to all the voice in my head saying 'Do this, be this, be that' because I would have been miserable," Perry reflects. "And I thought, 'Man, what if I had?' And that's where this character Wesley Deeds was born. And this movie is clearly about that. It's about people who have lived their lives according to what everyone else is saying and never giving into their own hopes and dreams."
Many filmmakers have a stack of story ideas or scripts they've wanted to make since film school. While Perry did have a list of Madea stage plays to adapt to the big screen when he first transitioned to the movie business, most of his recent works have been completely original. He even admits the next film can just be an idea he had off the top of his head. Perry says, "I write it and I say 'this is what I want to do next.' I don't have an idea for the next movie, but I'll walk out that door and I swear something will happen and I'll go, 'That's it.' And I'll start writing right away."
There is one script is waiting for just the right time to star in and direct however, adding, "I have one script called 'The Jazzman's Blues' which I wrote 15 years ago that I've been waiting to do, but other than that no."
In between his own busy directing and producing career, Perry took time out last fall to star in his first leading role for another director in "Alex Cross." There are a handful of directors who can stomach acting consistently for another filmmaker (George Clooney, Sydney Pollack come to mind) and from our interview it seems to be an experience Perry isn't likely to go through again anytime soon.
"I am not a person who likes to sit around for 20 hours a day waiting for the shots to be set up. You lose me. I wrote two movies during that time," Perry says bluntly. "But the performance is there. I'm very, very proud of the work, but it's a difficult thing to move through.
As to whether he'll ever write or direct his own action piece? At this point, it seems highly unlikely, Perry notes, "Death, destruction, blowing things up? Not necessary to me."
You can watch the entire interview with Perry embedded at the top of this post.
"Good Deeds" opens nationwide Friday.
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