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Craig Brewer Talks Black Snake Moan

Published March 3, 2007 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of Paramount Vintage.
Black Snake Moan Black Snake Moan
Following up a breakthrough film is always hard. After Hustle and Flow, Craig Brewer was offered many more similar projects, but he didn't want to be come the southern rapper guy. So he stuck to the south, but came up with a tale of sex and redemption, via a divorced bluesman chaining a promiscuous girl to his radiator.

Craig Brewer on Black Snake Moan


"I tell people I’m like the child of two divorced parents that are very different," said Brewer. "[Co-producer] John Singleton’s like the 'Yeah, yeah, go, put the chain on it,' and [co-producer] Stephanie [Allain]’s more of the, 'Now Craig, let’s think about this' and I kind of dance in between the two. Really I think especially both of them, I think really feel that we have an opportunity to create something knew. There really isn’t a category I could put Hustle and Flow in. Luckily because it’s rap and because there are African Americans in it, America can say, 'Well, it’s a urban film,' which I have a problem with that category. With <B>Hustle</B> I think people could just put it under that category and not think of it as a comedy or drama or anything. This movie is a little bit more difficult. People laugh at this movie and also are moved by the movie and they wonder if I’m somehow being disrespectful because I have funny moments in it. I’ve been at funerals in the South where the most inappropriate sh*t would happen and everybody busts up and then it passes and we’re back into the wake. This is part of it and we’re attracted to the grotesque and the outrageous, sometimes they’re members of our family and hard not to love."

The title itself comes from a personal codename between Brewer and his wife. Brewer began having panic attacks during the preproduction on Hustle and Flow, so they named it the Black Snake Moan. "If we would be somewhere and they would begin to hit, then we would mount that towards each other and we would have certain ways of getting rid of the anxiety attacks through each other like if we were apart, I would call her and all she would talk as if nothing bad is happening. 'Here’s what we did with your son today,' but when we’re together and the anxiety attack would hit me, she would lay on my back and I would lay on the floor and she would put her arms underneath my chest and push down and that pressure would take away some of that anxiety. For a confident person like myself, it really messed with me that something could drop me to my knees and have me think that I am about to die."


From the title incident, writing a script was the only way Brewer could exorcize the Moan. "There was a night where I needed to tune out a little bit and I went to my room and lit a bunch of candles and I stated playing Skip James. I am a big Blues fan and Skip James had this song called 'Hard Time Killing Floor Blues' and 'Washington D.C Hospital Center Blues.' Those were the two songs I would listened to over and over again. I had this vision in my head of me going to my granddad’s house in the country and going through that front door and this chain was just sitting past me as I was going into the door and it wrapped this big old radiator. It was right there in front of the door and I remembered that I could feel an anxiety attack coming on because I just knew that that radiator would be ripped out of the wall and remembered that I shouldn’t be writing about this. I shouldn’t be thinking of any of this because here it comes, the black snake moan is about to hit me again, and the pain went away and the radiator held. Looking at this radiator and it was yanking, and yanking, and dust and rust is flying off this thing like it went away and I began to feel a little better and I think I was in need of my dad. I just needed to be yanked back, a little bit."

Now Black Snake Moan means a lot more to the film. "The fear of the unknown. The fear of Blind Lemon Jefferson born in Texas, died a horrible death in Chicago when after a gig in a snowstorm he got lost and froze to death, which really is sad considering that’s how he always thought he was going to go out. It’s also a very wicked old song, there’s something even about the scratches and pops in the album and the simplistic guitar and that just sends chills down your spine. The most powerful thing about the blues that I’ve found is I think it’s like rap. I think it’s exorcism. Rap artists dance between reality and fantasy and I think it’s a very important thing to articulate those things."

Black Snake Moan
is out in theatres now.

Stay tuned for updates.

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Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of Paramount Vintage.
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