About The Production
Shot primarily in New York, with some filming
Empire utilized the visual and social disparities of New York City to
reinforce the film's story and themes - love, greed and reaping what you sow.
The juxtaposition of the trendy nightclubs, gorgeous apartments and chic restaurants of opulent
Manhattan, Wall Street with the tough, gritty and often dangerous barrios of the
South Bronx mirrors reality in a city and country where money is the ultimate
divining rod and the pursuit that unifies all people.
John Leguizamo, who portrays the ambitious
Victor Rosa in
Empire, savored the script's authenticity. "Contrary to the
typical gangster-related scripts I often read, Empire depicts a
true-to-life account of the urban
community," said Leguizamo. "Franc. Reyes and I both
grew up in neighborhoods like the one in this film, which is why the struggles
and obstacles Victor faces - and the choices he makes -are so real. It's not
just a genre film or some formula. It's told from the point of view of
somebody who has lived it. It is written with such conviction and depth, that I
knew I had to play this part."
Growing up in the South Bronx, writer-director
Franc. Reyes witnessed the fast money and seemingly glamorous lifestyle of the
drug world. In
Empire - which he shot in the same neighborhood that
he comes from Reyes depicts the quicksilver glitz, yet is also quick to show the
swift, brutal and final consequences of the gangster life. As the story begins,
Reyes' anti-hero, Victor Rosa, is at the top of his game. But when a rival
shoots him in the street, Rosa is suddenly aware of his limitations - and his
"I was writing the
screenplay during a very difficult period in my life," Reyes recalled.
"We were coming out of the whole crack epidemic in the early '90's, and
people were losing their lives to drugs or for drugs. Some of them were friends
Reyes' first feature
film is personal in many ways and he believes that as a Latino it is his
responsibility to tell the story in all of its complexity. "I saw many
people like Victor Rosa as I was growing up," he continued. "The
lifestyle of a drug dealer can absolutely be glamorous, as well as violent and
risky. It was important for me to show all aspects with truth and accuracy.
Victor's struggles within his world, and the sacrifices he must ultimately
make to get out, make for a passionate and real story."
But Reyes doesn't
just show the dark side. He also wanted to highlight the unique Latino culture
in this community and get beyond stereotypes of the ghetto. "What I wanted
to show people was not so much dirt and grit because that's not what the
ghetto was to me. To me it was family," he said.
Victor's crew - Jimmy (Vincent
Laresca), Chedda (Treach) and Jay (Rafael Baez) - is his extended family. They've
all gotten rich working their turf, but their bonds go deeper than money.
"Growing up in the South Bronx, no matter how hard-core it might get, most
of the time you're just sitting around with your friends and cracking up about
things - laughing and joking around," said Reyes. "Most days are like
that - and then you have these terrible moments.
"There's a Jimmy in every
bunch," he continued. "He's the guy with heart - ready to go in
first and com
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