Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.
MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: House Party nearly starred DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
New Line Cinema’s House Party, written and directed by Reginald Hudlin (based on a student film that Hudlin had made at Harvard in 1983 as his senior thesis), was a charming and often-hilarious 1990 feature film about two teenage friends who throw a party at the home of one of the friends whose parents are away on vacation. As you might expect, the party gets out of control and hilarity ensues.
The film was a major success and launched the careers of a number of notable actors, including Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell, Daryl “Chill” Mitchell and Robin Harris (who tragically died soon after the film was released). The biggest attention, though, was given to the two stars of the film, Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin, who were already known before the film for their music work as the hip hop duo “Kid ‘n’ Play.” Their music career blossomed, they starred in two sequels to House Party and they even received their own Saturday morning cartoon series! However, amazingly enough, they nearly did not get the chance to star in the film at all. Instead, due to, of all things, Nightmare on Elm Street, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince nearly starred in House Party! Read on to see what happened…
Before becoming a movie superstar and solo singer, Will Smith was best known as the Fresh Prince, one half of the hip hop duo, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, along with Jeffrey A. Townes.
They had a major hit with the 1988 rap song “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” which actually ended up winning the very first Grammy for Best Rap Performance.
Another hit for the duo that year was the song “A Nightmare on My Street,” which heavily samples the theme song from Nightmare on Elm Street and is basically about Smith fighting against the villain of Nightmare of Elm Street, Freddy Krueger.
While I don’t know for sure, I would bet that the song was written for possible inclusion in the 1988 film, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (as that film ended up featuring a different rap song by the Fat Boys).
Whether the song was intended for the film or not, New Line Cinema, makers of Nightmare on Elm Street, were not happy about the unlicensed sampling nor the fact that the song came out at the same time as the new Elm Street film, which gave off the impression that it was connected to the film. So New Line sued the duo. They came to a financial settlement. Part of the deal included the destruction of a music video filmed for the single as well as adding a disclaimer to the record that the song had no connection to the Nightmare on Elm Street films.
However, there was another interesting twist in the settlement (which I happen to think showed some real creativity on New Line Cinema’s part). DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were given the option of doing two movies for New Line Cinema. If they chose to do the films, their salaries for the films would come out of the settlement money. So they could theoretically get away without having to go out of pocket over the lawsuit. Or they could just choose to turn down both scripts and then just pay the original settlement fee. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince planned on just turning down both scripts out of hand. The first script they were offered, as it turns out, was House Party.
Last year, DJ Jazzy Jeff spoke about the situation to Radio Milwaukee:
The first script was House Party because if you think about the premise of House Party – one dude was a DJ and the other was a rapper. So House Party was set up for Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. We weren’t thinking about doing movies back then. They were like, “What do you think about this?” and we were like, “Oh, we don’t like it.” And “What about this?” “Oh, we don’t like it. Ha! We out!”
Hudlin spoke about the story, as well a couple of years ago and told the same story. Hudlin noted that he felt a bit uneasy about approaching the pair since he knew that if they did it, they’d only be doing it because of the lawsuit, but he did not want to pass up the opportunity of working with them, so he asked their manager Russell Simmons and he was quickly rebuffed, just as DJ Jazzy Jeff explained above.
Interestingly enough, a few years later Will Smith made his feature film debut in Where the Day Takes You, a film by…New Line Cinema.
The legend is…
Thanks to DJ Jazzy Jeff and Reginald Hudlin for the information!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is [email protected]