An Interview With Biggie & Tupac Director Nick Broomfield


There’ve 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. You’re hardly shy about this in Biggie & Tupac.

Broomfield: Well, there are a lot of unanswered questions. As a filmmaker or as a journalist, what one’s 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 haven’t so far?

Los Angeles is not a city that’s 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 Wallace’s murder and wasn’t 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 he’s a very smooth and charismatic man. It was very hard to break through and get any real, meaningful answers, which is why I didn’t 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 hasn’t 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 thing—a giant rat.

I noticed you never stop for traffic lights. Why?

When we’re shooting things, it takes so long to load and reload the camera and the film can be very expensive. So when I’m filming, I run through the red lights. It’s much cheaper.

How did you manage to get into Suge’s prison block?

The producer of the film, Michelle D’Acosta, managed to find some loophole in the rules. We couldn’t 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. He’s got a real aura about him. He’s got this incredible physique for a start—and he’s got this very mild voice. So he’s such a strange mixture of characters really. He’s got the cigar and his guys at the prison. He’s 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.

How 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.

They’re cowboys and they’re encouraged to be cowboys. It’s like the Wild West dealing with underprivileged immigrants in those areas. Vigilantes almost. They can get away with anything they want—so 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. It’s been around, but it surprised me that Biggie and Tupac had been under surveillance for so long—for months, particularly in Biggie’s case. He wasn’t considered a political person, but he and Tupac and rappers in general were regarded by the FBI as focal points of potential political unrest. There’s a lot more knowledge of what went on that hasn’t been made available to the public.

Related Article:

J. Hoberman’s review of Biggie & Tupac