An Interview With Biggie & Tupac Director Nick Broomfield
Thereve been a lot of conflicting theories about the motives behind the murders of Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace (a/k/a Biggie Smalls) but all the evidence you reveal points to Suge. Youre hardly shy about this in Biggie & Tupac.
Broomfield: Well, there are a lot of unanswered questions. As a filmmaker or as a journalist, what ones really doing is just pointing those factual inaccuracies out, saying to the appropriate authorites, like the Los Angeles Police Department, Look.
Why do you think they havent so far?
Los Angeles is not a city thats interested in knowing about racial tension, a very corrupt police force, and enormous disparities of wealth. The fact that David Mack [a black ex-LAPD officer] was a prime suspect in Wallaces murder and wasnt questioned by the police has raised a lot of suspicion.
Former LAPD chief Bernard Parks has been implicated in the cover-up. Were you able to speak with him?
I did interview him. But hes a very smooth and charismatic man. It was very hard to break through and get any real, meaningful answers, which is why I didnt include the interview in the film.
A few weeks ago, Los Angeles Times reporter Chuck Philips claimed that Biggie Smalls had Shakur killed. What was your initial reaction?
I was amazed that he had no proof. He hasnt come out with a thing and refuses to answer any questions. Anyone who knows anything about the details of these two cases is likely to smell one thinga giant rat.
I noticed you never stop for traffic lights. Why?
When were shooting things, it takes so long to load and reload the camera and the film can be very expensive. So when Im filming, I run through the red lights. Its much cheaper.
How did you manage to get into Suges prison block?
The producer of the film, Michelle DAcosta, managed to find some loophole in the rules. We couldnt specify a particular inmate to interview, but we could ask for blanket permission to film the prison. And once we got in, we could basically talk to anyone, so long as they wanted to talk. But it had never been done before. So it was amazing that it actually happened.
Did Suge Knight impress you?
Uh, yeah. Hes got a real aura about him. Hes got this incredible physique for a startand hes got this very mild voice. So hes such a strange mixture of characters really. Hes got the cigar and his guys at the prison. Hes treated as a real celebrity.
Your cameramen ditched that interview for "self-preservation." Were you scared?
You have to anticipate problems. But there were moments, particularly towards the end of making the film, when we were dealing with Death Row records, that it got kind of heavy.
There were lots and lots of phone calls. From Death Row. "Where are you staying?" "What flight are you on?" That kind of thing, which was kind of unnerving. I think it was the sheer volume of it. There were probably like 10 or 15 of those calls in a day.
Mack and his former LAPD partner Rafael Perez come across like fictional characters, with all the drug peddling, gunslinging, and lady charming.
Theyre cowboys and theyre encouraged to be cowboys. Its like the Wild West dealing with underprivileged immigrants in those areas. Vigilantes almost. They can get away with anything they wantso long as they come up arrests.
You reported that the FBI had been surveilling both rappers at the time of their murders. Did that surpise you?
That program started with J. Edgar Hoover and the Black Panthers. Its been around, but it surprised me that Biggie and Tupac had been under surveillance for so longfor months, particularly in Biggies case. He wasnt considered a political person, but he and Tupac and rappers in general were regarded by the FBI as focal points of potential political unrest. Theres a lot more knowledge of what went on that hasnt been made available to the public.
J. Hoberman's review of Biggie & Tupac
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Village Voice's biggest stories.