Zaire Paige Not Only Played a Movie Killer, He Became One in Real Life.

This is how he squandered his big chance to go straight.

Zaire Paige Not Only Played a Movie Killer, He Became One in Real Life.
Illustration by Dan Page

The most compelling moment in Brooklyn's Finest takes place near the very end. Ethan Hawke, who plays a renegade NYPD cop and the 2009 film's central character, stands in a filthy drug den in a Brownsville housing project. Ransacking the apartment, he finds what he's looking for: wads of dollar bills inside a washing machine. As he rips into the stash, the sound of shots explode as Hawke's character is gunned down from behind. He breathes his last breath covered in cash and blood.

The camera reveals Hawke's killer: "Man Man," the lookout in the local drug gang.

It's Man Man's big moment in the film—and also for the actor who played him, a 21-year-old from Brownsville named Zaire Paige.

Paige isn't an actor—he has no formal training and had never acted professionally before making the film. But at his audition, he showed such an unlikely dose of talent and confidence that director Antoine Fuqua gave him a significant part. During the 2008 filming, Paige got advice from veteran actors like Don Cheadle, Wesley Snipes, and Hassan Johnson, who played the tough-nosed Wee-Bey on The Wire. And Paige made such an impression on the rest of the cast and crew that he was flown out to Los Angeles to meet other Hollywood types, staying for two weeks in the house of James Brown's widow.

But Fuqua knew that the charismatic Paige had a troubled side, one that added authenticity to his role in the movie. With multiple bullet wounds on his five-foot-one body, Paige had the scars to go with felony convictions for drug and gun possession. Police and prosecutors suspected that he was a high-ranking member of a Crips faction in Brooklyn. Appearing in Brooklyn's Finest, Paige and his family hoped, was his best chance of escaping that life.

He squandered that opportunity three months after filming his scenes. On October 27, 2008, Paige and a longtime associate, Robert Crawford, stormed into a Fort Greene hair salon and pumped more than a dozen rounds into a 20-year-old suspected gangster named Lethania Garcia. It was a revenge killing over the 2006 murder of a friend; when Garcia fell, he collapsed on a hairstylist who was also hit by multiple bullets. Today, the woman is unable to stand upright without excruciating pain. An off-duty cop who was in the salon was also hit by gunfire and sustained an injury to her foot.

Local media descended on the murder scene at the De Lux Natural Hair Gallery—a destination black hair salon with celebrity clients in a gentrified Brooklyn neighborhood—and have reported more recent developments: In November, Paige and Crawford were convicted of homicide after a three-week trial. Crawford was sentenced to 53-years-to-life in December. An accomplice, Paul Wint, whose testimony was key to the conviction, pled guilty and will be sentenced to four to 12 years this week. On Monday, Paige was sentenced to four consecutive 25-years-to-life sentences for the murder and four assault charges, plus an additional seven years. (See also, "Zaire Paige Goes from Movie Killer to Actual Killer, Gets 107 Years in Prison.") The judge noted that Paige would not be eligible for parole for another 107 years.

What hasn't received as much attention is how Paige, just months before the revenge killing that would put him in prison for decades, managed to find himself on a movie set with the likes of Richard Gere, Hawke, and Cheadle.

Jailed eight months after his scenes were filmed, Paige never got an opportunity to see himself on screen when Brooklyn's Finest opened in theaters early in 2010 (it had played earlier at the 2009 Sundance Festival in Utah).

Paige insists that he is innocent of the murder, claims that he is no longer affiliated with the Crips, and is appealing his case. But for now, he's going nowhere.

"His life is over," Fuqua now says of the young man he put before the cameras. Paige, meanwhile, has a lot of time to think about what happened to his big shot at stardom, the advice he got from some well-known actors, and what might have been.

Director Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur) grew up in public housing in Pittsburgh; he knew how to give his film an authentic look and he was determined to get it. He would be directing a script written by a former MTA employee, Michael C. Martin, about corrupt cops. His first choice was to make the film in East New York, but the NYPD's 75th Precinct refused to grant permission. The 73rd Precinct, in nearby Brownsville, proved more open to the idea of a large film crew setting up shop for an entire summer in a sprawling local housing project.

For help with "street authenticity," Fuqua hired as technical consultant Randy Eastman, a local fashion stylist who also played a small role as a drug dealer in the film.

Eastman, who is 36, says he immediately thought of bringing along his friend, Zaire Paige. He'd known Paige since the younger man was in middle school, and he knew that Paige had had a turbulent childhood with a mother who battled addiction. He says he wanted to give Paige the break that would get him off the streets of Brownsville. "He was the reality gangster that would turn into a fantasy gangster," he says. "That was my goal."

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94 comments
OnQue
OnQue

What the story doesn't tell was that Lethania Garcia was a hit man that killed a lot of people. It may not have been the right course of action but Ziare did what LAW ENFORCEMENT didn't do! The bogus ass cops knew all about what the lil bastard was doing but they didn't care.... The lowlife deserved every bullet that went into his body...

 Brooklyn22
Brooklyn22

Smh yall ppl always takin crazy like really..what if it was one of ya ppls!!!Hold ya head ^^ boy

Dvs
Dvs

A well written story that tells the facts in fluid fassion about lost opportunities. Hang in there little brotha "Zaire", be a force for positive Change.

Stephanieayeni
Stephanieayeni

4 all u haters talkin bout gud 4 him did u ever think t wat u c on tv is real. maybe a dirty ass cop framed him?

Eve
Eve

I love you Zaire you'll always hold a special place in my heart hold your head and have faith........ FUCK ALL YOU HATING ASS BITCHES!!!!

Wwwt
Wwwt

disrespectful are you serious? nigs are ruining this whole fuckin country, thats whats disrespectful jackass

Dulcelanthony
Dulcelanthony

Damnnn. dat was my nigga..I knew Z since elmentary..dats fuked up.

Dert
Dert

fuck that nig nog, he was given a oppertunity that he didnt deserve and he fucked it up like a typical scumbag nigger

SpkTruth2Pwr
SpkTruth2Pwr

Very good article written on unfortunately sad circumstances. I am a bit perturbed by the ignorance with which some people are commenting on this entry. Its clear the young man missed an opportunity to get out of a destructive life style - but calling him dumb or a monkey is unnecessary and disrespectful.

whiteyshardwork
whiteyshardwork

not only did zaire play a dumb nigger in the movies but he was one in real life too

mr y t
mr y t

another monkey headed to the zoo

Mischa
Mischa

excellent and well-researched article. i love how it didn't try to draw big generalized conclusions about street life or gangs, or pretend to have the space to adequately deal with the drug war, or youth in america's cities, or any number of large, abstract themes. it told a story, a poignant story, and it told it honestly, neither sugar coating nor demonizing. bravo.

Jesusiscoming
Jesusiscoming

Funny how loads of people take pride in showing there TRUE racism based on this article!! That is why I am SOOOOOOOOOO HAPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPYYYY that this world is going to hell!!! Because ALL You who think you are BETTER than this dude, will be burning right alongside of him in HELLL!!!! Believe That!!!!! Trust me...It IS COMING! Judgement Day!!! And it's About time For ALL You HaTting SATAN Worshipers!!! Because he is the FATHER of ALL Evil, all sin and ALL THINGS HATE!!! MAY YOU ALL GO TO HELL WITH HIM!!!

AFFF
AFFF

ONCE A NIG NOG ALWAYS A NIG NOG

OG
OG

Jail is easy!!!! As you could see life is hard on the streets, not in jail!!!! It obvious this dude gave up a long time ago with his loyalty to a street gang and not to his seed!!! He was to blinded to see the blessing in front of him and not wise enough to walk the path of a man! Eff going back to B-Ville for the true story! Eff the background and all the problems!!! I grew up in Fort Greene when Myrtle ave was called Murder Ave! Don't believe me lets go back 25 years when they were busting off every night!!! You don't see me blaming anyone or making excuses. I do cuss my own people for being Ignorant!! Enough let's get back on target!!!! His next film should be Brooklyns Dumbest because he was dumb enough to fall to the ignorance of the street !!!!

Ffff
Ffff

just another nickle and dime bootlip gone to prison

Ssss
Ssss

who cares? just another dirty little nig nog shooting another dirty nig nog. good riddence

Babbabooey
Babbabooey

we all just laugh when one nig nog kills another nig nog tommorow will be funny in some citie im sure

Dgoodine4
Dgoodine4

That just part of the story village voice you need to come back to brownsville and get all.

Fort Greene
Fort Greene

Great article.

His grandmother's refusal to acknowledge his guilt is heart-breaking. I wonder about his 5 siblings and his own child. Such a sad story, such a sad reality. Whenever I see defendants' families in court with matching t-shirts and vocal protestations of innocence, I wonder where they were while the defendant started on the very long road to the final crime that got them put on trial.

I remember the day of this shooting, as I live two blocks away. I am glad that he got a 107-year sentence. He truly is a danger to all civilized members of society as his judge said.

Alex Pilewski
Alex Pilewski

I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

nigs get a life
nigs get a life

nobody cares about nigs killing nigs dont you people get it?

Snnn
Snnn

whats funny is that every time one of thease blacks kill each other ,no one even cares, we just throw them in the garbage like a little chimpmunk or something . only chimpmunks are actually cute, people like chipmunks, people dont like niggers, ha ha ha

Hurdgurdydude
Hurdgurdydude

Another retarted lack of research by the village v. Where can I find the 74th precinct? Anyone? Idiots

Dass
Dass

What a typical dumb nigger

cobbster
cobbster

It is all too bad .......... in the end one crazy decision chooses are next path. Salvation is always at the door ........ what we do next chooses are destination.

Wwwy
Wwwy

just another dirtbag nig nog

Eve
Eve

SHUT THE FUCK UP BITCH YOU SOUND STUPID

goham.mj
goham.mj

hay im in los angeles im from criminal gangster crip in brooklyn .i lost contact with my east coast niggas but i know za.my name  is L.A. if any one from da set get at me ......jigga b. maino. havoc . holla at ya  boy

 

Smacked out here in the ville
Smacked out here in the ville

thas my godbro.. i havent seen him in 3 years and now this happens fuck the police u heard im gonna see this nikka in like a week

ask your mom b otch
ask your mom b otch

i guess you is a dumb knickle dragger too if dat be yo nigga yo, silly monkey

Dert
Dert

fuck you too monkey

Ohyeu
Ohyeu

good, ill be toasting marshmellows on the flames bitch, bababooey bababooey howard sterns penis

Sdf
Sdf

SPOKEN LIKE A TRUE RACIST....AYMAY OUYAY IEDAY onEday!!!

CCB
CCB

OG, I know what you talking about... I grew up in Marcy Projects and I remember when Myrtle Avenue was called "Murder Avenue" I remember going to Cumberland Hospital before they finally closed it view the body of a friend shot in Fort Greene park. I remember my cousins telling me not walk back to Marcy on Myrtle Avenue. Walk on Park Avenue... I feel for this guy... He has know idea what a blessing he has blown... It will all come to him when he gets older and he realizes that his life was worth more than what it has become. I am really praying for this brother... What a waste...

SpkTruth2Pwr
SpkTruth2Pwr

I'm crying over here. Yawn. A pre-schooler has more insight and better remarks. But thank you for your thoughtlessness.

Ohyea
Ohyea

your mother likes this cracker especially when her welfare check runs out and i bring her newports and 40s

AAA
AAA

you must be a useless jungle creature too.

 
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