Bill Duke, Actor/Filmmaker/Author: “You know something, you know you done f’ed up right?”
“No, no, no.”
“No, no, no, no. You know you done f’ed up right?”
I had a martial arts teacher once and he gave us lessons in terms of…the teacher said “If a man wants to fight you, run away from him as hard and fast as you can.”
He said “But if he runs after you and he catches you, make sure he never chase you again.”
In Nineteen Eighty-Four [the movie] you’re not allowed to do anything without the permission of the thought police, they determine your reality. They create this war and it’s not really a war that’s happening at all. They have these soldiers marching and all this stuff (blah, blah, blah, blah). You’re not allowed to have a relationship without their permission. You can’t just fall in love, you have to have their permission to go through them.
So Richard Burton is the head of the thought police [“O’Brien”] and John…[John Hurt] he is a citizen and he and this woman fall in love. They keep meeting secretly at her place and his place and are running away.
One day they are caught by the thought police and the helicopters come and the soldiers come and take them to the thought police headquarters and John [John Hurt as Winston Smith] is lying on the table of the thought police headquarters and there’s a spotlight on the table and he’s lying there naked with his hands tied and his feet tied and this electrical force comes through the table with a switch where if you turn the switch on it electrocutes you and there is water coming down.
And so there’s a guy near the button and Richard Burton is sitting there and John is saying “I’m so sorry. I was wrong. I did it. I should have never, ever seen her.” And then an image of Burton says “Well, you know, she said that you started it.” “I don’t know, I’ll never do it again. Please forgive me.” And Richard Burton says “Shhh, it’s okay. I just want to trust but verify.”
So he says to John “How many fingers am I holding up?” And John says “Four.” Richard Burton nods to the guy with the button “Ahhh!!” [Bill imitates John crying out in pain]. Richard Burton says “Stop.”
“What did I do wrong? What I do wrong?”
“How many fingers am I holding up.”
[Bill imitates Richard Burton and nods to begin shocking John].
“What did I do wrong?”
“Shhh…how many fingers am I holding up?”
“I don’t know, I don’t know?”
[Repeats process of shocking him]
John cries out.
“I’m holding up as many fingers as I tell your a$$ I’m holding up. Because it’s got nothing to do with your eyes, nothing to do with your intellect or your mind. When I say it’s three fingers, how many are there?”
Alternative facts…isn’t three an alternative fact? [Holds up four fingers].
You will believe what we tell you to believe, nothing to do with your perspective at all. Okay…not me…what can I say?
[Referring to his work ethic] I think a lot of them think I’m crazy. I mean if I can’t get it done, I can’t sleep. No matter how tired I am, I know if I don’t get it done (my work done) that day, I can’t sleep. I’m worried about it the next day and Okay how many hours do I have? And so I meditate and the meditation helps me.
Do I see people working harder than me? I can’t imagine that but if I do it inspires me to work harder. I mean good is not good enough and great is not good enough. Excellence, excellence, your name’s on it. And even if you don’t have the budget you need, you’ve got to take what you have and do the best you can. You have to make 1 million look like 20 [million]. It takes work and sleep is not something you do.
Film Courage: Were you always like this?
Bill: I had parents who taught me ethics that I didn’t know they were teaching me at the time. I was very, very young and my father and mother used to say to my sister and I “Bill and Yvonne, always remember this. You’re no better than anybody else, but nobody is better than you.” And they said “Never ask anybody for anything. Go get it.”
My father worked three jobs, my mother worked two, seven days a week sometimes. And they wouldn’t take welfare or social assistance, they were too proud.
So I had hit a low point in New York City one time and was almost homeless. I literally was getting high all the time with these different things and I was on the street. I had my hand out and was begging for money. And this older lady came by one day and she looked at me. And I said “Ma’am can I have some change?” And she looked at me and walked by and I thought she was gone so I asked the next person. And I felt a little tap on my back. It was the same old lady. And I said “Yes ma’am, you got change?” She looked in my face and she said “Son, do your mama know you’re here doing this?”
I said “No ma’am.” She just shook her head and walked away, didn’t give me a dime. I turn around and sat on the steps, I never begged for money again.
Film Courage: Do you still see her face?
Bill Duke: Yes…oh yes. I watched her…she walked two blocks and took a left and I watched her. Changed my life. It reminded my of what my parents told me. And I had a college education, I had a Master’s Degree…blah, blah, blah. My mother and father went to the second and third grade and they never asked anybody for anything. I had to carry that legacy on. Changed my life.
Family-wise, relationship-wise, I’ve never been married. I’ve been very selfish and the women in my life have hated that because of my work ethic. I try not to bring my work home but the next day I want to go prepared. So okay let’s have a few moments of camaraderie whatever…okay great! I go work on the script. That’s not the most comforting of things in a relationship because we owe each other the attention that each other needs and I’ve always struggled with that, always have in relationships.
And the other thing (it sounds crazy) but being a black man in this business, I felt I always had to be better, not as good, but better because good is not good enough. I was always paranoid. I’ve got to be super, duper, super prepared. So I’m speaking for more than myself as an individual, I’m speaking for a culture because we’re judged like that you know?…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).
Check out more about CREATED EQUAL here:
MORE VIDEOS WITH BILL DUKE
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Mandao (Man-Day-Oh) of the Dead is about Jay Mandao and his nephew-in-law Jackson who use astral projection to reverse a ghost’s death on Halloween.
This astral comedy is the second feature film Written and Directed by Scott Dunn and produced by Gina Gomez Dunn. It was filmed in 10 days with a production budget of just $13k. The duo’s first feature film, Schlep won Best Comedy/Dramedy at the Hollywood Boulevard Festival and was nominated in 5 different categories at the FirstGlance Film Festival. Schlep is also available on Amazon. Mandao of the Dead will be released on iTunes and DVD/Blu-ray in January 2019.