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'Straight Outta Compton': What the film's success can do for Hollywood diversity




The N.W.A. bio pic
The N.W.A. bio pic "Straight Outta Compton" directed by F. Gary Gray
Universal

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"Straight Outta Compton," the story of N.W.A, blew away industry expectations over the weekend with a $60 million debut.

Everything leading up to the film's opening was done up big. You couldn't go online without people talking about it, or creating their own "Straight Outta" memes on Instagram.

 

By faaaaar the best one. #RKO

A photo posted by O'Shea Jackson Jr (@oshea_jackson_jr) on

 

You couldn't turn on the TV or radio without bearing witness to the previews.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rsbWEF1Sju0

The hype ran high. But expectations were another story, according to Franklin Leonard.

"I actually think that the expectations were lower than they should have been," said Leonard, founder of The Black List. "The film did exceed even people's wildest expectations, including my own."

The reason behind this, he said, is an assumption about audiences.  

"I think that there is an assumption that if you make a film about young black men that there is not the audience that there actually is for it," he said.

Considering all of this, can the film's wild success push Hollywood to stick to its diversity pledge?

'Straight Outta Compton' and Hollywood's diversity problem

Leonard alluded to Hollywood's lack of diversity in Tweets he posted during the opening weekend for "Straight Outta Compton."  

 

Leonard hopes that "Straight Outta Compton" won't just break box office barriers, but break past the notion that there is not an appetite for people of color on screen.

"Hopefully people will stop looking at it as, 'these are one-offs that we are trying to replicate,' and just recognize that there is an opportunity to make films for a large audience," he said. "There's a real opportunity to make money by making good movies about historically underrepresented communities in Hollywood."

In addition, this isn't the first rodeo for F. Gary Gray, the film's director. His track record of film success includes "Friday," "Set It Off" and "The Italian Job" to name a few. In a typical case, Gray -- and the film's three young actors, Jason Mitchell, O'Shea Jackson Jr. and Corey Hawkins -- should already have offers for their next hits. As of now, that doesn't necessarily appear to be the case. But that doesn't mean all is lost.

"History would suggest that in great success, there would be a great number of offers that would follow up," Leonard said. "I think time will tell."

To listen to the full interview, click on the blue audio player above.