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The Filming of Notorious
NOTORIOUS was shot in 38 days, less time than many classic rap records were made, entirely on location in Brooklyn and Los Angeles. For the filmmakers, there simply was no other choice but to return to the same streets where Christopher Wallace's legend all started.

"It was essential for us to shoot the movie in Brooklyn,” George Tillman, Jr. remarks, "to shoot in his neighborhood, on the same streets he sold drugs, in the same apartment building where he lived with his mom. It was the best way to capture a world that is so specific, right down to the clothing, the styles, the way Biggie freestyles his songs.”

Tillman recruited an accomplished behind-the-camera team who helped him capture that world, including director of photography Michael Grady, who has shot such films as WONDERLAND, BUG and FACTORY GIRL; and production designer Jane Musky who made her debut with the Coen Brothers' BLOOD SIMPLE and went on to design many diverse productions from WHEN HARRY MET SALLY and GHOST to most recently, THE WOMEN.

"Michael, Jane and I collaborated on creating a different color scheme for the different stages of Christopher's evolution,” Tillman says. "Young Christopher is all about warm colors, giving a sense of love and family. Then there's Fulton street, when he's Big Chris on the corner, which is grimy and monochromatic, reflecting both the environment and his state of mind. Finally, The Notorious B.I.G. stage is all about color. And red is the color used throughout the film to show danger.”

To keep a feeling of fly-on-the-wall immediacy, Grady shot much of the film with handheld cameras. Meanwhile, Tillman counted on Musky to capture Brooklyn's look in the 80s and 90s, focusing on nuanced period details. She in turn worked closely with costume designer Paul A. Simmons, whose past work includes the run-away hit HUSTLE AND FLOW and AMERICAN GANGSTER – who brought a similar authenticity to the famous styles of the hip-hop stars depicted in the film.

Also coming on board as the film's choreographer was Tanisha Scott, who has choreographed for such stars as Alicia Keys, Eve, Ludacris and Beyoncé and was recently seen in the step-dance movie HOW SHE MOVE. Scott's job went beyond the usual work of designing dance moves as she worked with Jamal Woolard for months on end to teach him to walk with the same bob and tilt of the head that Biggie was known for. She also worked closely with Derek Luke and Naturi Naughton as they learned how to dance like "Puffy” and Lil' Kim.

"Part of what I was trying to do was to take the characters' behavioral aspects and bring them to life in movement,” Scott explains. "With Jamal it was about helping him to have this cool sway about him when he's younger, or like with the Primo battle, to be very light on his feet and energetic. Puffy is all arms when he talks. Naturi, as Lil' Kim, has to be very sassy.”

The team was also helped immeasurably by having so many people who knew Christopher Wallace at different points in his life involved in the production. "It was great to be surrounded by people who knew Biggie when he was growing up,” says Tillman. "From the Junior M.A.F.I.A. guys who were with him on the block, to Voletta Wallace, to Faith Evans, to DJ Enuff and Money L who were with him onstage, we got a lot of feedback that made the story much more authentic. We would go to locations and they would say, ‘This is where Biggiehung out when he was 14. This is where he was at 17.' Having the real people around made things that much more real.”

Throughout the making of the film, music was at the core of the storytelling – from small, intimate freestyles on the corner, to an all-out street "rap battle,” to the large concert scenes. To capture the concert scenes with dynamic realism, Tillman shot them as if they were really happening, creating full-fledged


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