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SHAFT

About The Story
The original "Shaft," directed by Gordon Parks and released in 1971, was a ground-breaking sensation and marked the birth of an entirely new genre: audiences had never seen an African-American hero as tough, as sexual or as street-smart as John Shaft.

"Things were different then," says Singleton. "Up until that time, we really only had Sidney Poitier. When Richard Roundtree came on the scene in ‘Shaft,' it had an effect that was just wild. Everybody wanted to copy it."

"We only have a few actors who can play this type of role today," Singleton continues. "Sam Jackson was absolutely the pinnacle of those guys. Shaft is a cool, contemporary presence -- a man who moves easily among many different worlds. He's as much at home downtown as uptown. That's the way the character was originally, and that's what Sam brings to it now."

Samuel L. Jackson says: "I first saw the original ‘Shaft' in Atlanta when I was in college, and it was pretty awesome stuff for me. It was the first time I actually saw someone who looked like me, sounded like me, dressed the way I always wanted to dress and played a hero. He was our first real hero. It was all about Black Pride, and he was very proud. He was strong, he was smart, he was unafraid. He had the power and even the ego that we all wanted to have."

At the time Richard Roundtree won the title role in the original "Shaft," he had done only a bit part in one previous film. "I had no concept of what starring in a film was all about," says Roundtree today. "I was thrown into the water and just started swimming. And then to have it explode like that -- it caught me totally off-guard. I think we can safely say that it changed my life."

Vanessa Williams stars as police detective Carmen Vasquez, a tough, action-filled role that was a departure from most of the characters she has portrayed in the past.

"The big carrot that was being dangled in front of me was the chance to work with Sam Jackson," she recalls. "That was the big appeal. He's probably the hardest-working man in show business. He really knows the art of filmmaking and had a lot to offer every day. It was wonderful watching him feel so at home and knowing what he was doing."

As Carmen, she plays a character who, while hardened and street smart, also has to be supportive of Shaft as his professional partner. Carmen is the one who usually calms Shaft down when his anger and his emotions threaten to get out of hand.

"She's not a nagging wife," Williams explains, "but she does get tired of him trying to do it by himself. She lets him go, but she kind of rolls her eyes and says, ‘Okay, that's what I'm dealing with.'"

Jeffrey Wright, a Tony winner for his performance in "Angels in America," plays Dominican drug lord, Peoples Hernandez. He extensively researched for the role within New York's Dominican community and perfected a flawless Dominican accent.

British-born Christian Bale also had a new accent to learn: that of a monied young New Yorker who is cultivating a tough, violent attitude. Bale had already mastered a similar vocal pattern for his previous feature film, "American Psycho," and developed it further for "Shaft." He even made sure to keep the accent between scenes while chatting on the set with the cast and crew.

"I'm sure people just thought, ‘Oh God, it's an actor being a wanker, as usual,'" Bale laughs. "But I found that it worked best for me to maintain the accent the whole time. I didn't like having to think about the accent once the camera was rolling. Half the time, I would have been thinking about whether I sounded right. So I tended to just keep up the a

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