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About The Production
Shot primarily in New York, with some filming in Miami, 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 mortality.

"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 of mine."

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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