The MVP of Black Cinema

At 73, the original baadasssss shows no signs of slowing down

Melvin Van Peebles: "I wasn't going to be their one little genius nigger."
photo: Nicholas Burnham
Melvin Van Peebles: "I wasn't going to be their one little genius nigger."


He continues to be the indomitable, upbeat, energetic workaholic he's always been. While the world makes plans to put him under glass or carve him in stone, he's as enthusiastic about what's next as your average whippersnapper hustling for a whiff of that first big paycheck. This is especially the case with the new film, a project for which he's yet again done the unthinkable and recorded his audio track first—sound, narration, music, dialogue, the whole megillah—without an investor in sight. (A word to the wise for all you luxurious hiphop moguls out there: Van Peebles is on record as saying he will not decline your investment in Memories of an Ex-Doofus Mother.) "Fortunately I'm in excellent condition because despite all the accolades it's still just me plodding along," he says. "So the new film will get done when it gets done. Every time I do something it's ahead of the curve so people still ask 'How you gonna do that' because just like Sweetback they've never seen anybody do it before."

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