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Despite cutting commentary, 'Barbershop' sequel's planned

October 15, 2002|Rachel Abramowitz | Times Staff Writer

In Hollywood, controversy rarely hurts the bottom line, so it came as no surprise when MGM over the weekend disclosed plans for a sequel to "Barbershop," the breakout comedy about life in a Chicago barbershop, which has earned more than $65 million at the box office.

The studio is already in talks to bring back star Ice Cube, although the script does not yet exist. "We're still flushing it out. We're looking into the history of how the barbershop came into existence," says director Tim Story, who also will helm the sequel. He hopes to reunite the entire cast, which includes Anthony Anderson, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve and Cedric the Entertainer.

The original producers, Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr., and one of the original screenwriters, Don S. Scott, are also returning.

Although the lighthearted comedy was widely embraced by audiences, particularly African American audiences, it sparked criticism from some of the nation's black leaders for irreverent jokes about such civil rights figures as Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and the Rev. Jesse Jackson. In a controversial scene, Eddie, a character played by Cedric, denigrates King, Parks and others.

Several other barbershop patrons recoil from his comments, but Eddie continues to riff humorously.

Jackson publicly chastised the filmmaking team for making fun of figures that he believed should be immune from mockery. The Rev. Al Sharpton demanded an apology from MGM, which was not forthcoming, nor was removal of the offending scene from the video release. Sharpton also declared his intention to call for a boycott of the studio. MGM representatives said Monday they were not aware of any organized protests.

Story says the controversy didn't wind up hurting the picture, nor will it influence the sequel. "At the end of the day, it became conversation, which is the only thing we ever wished it would be."

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