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MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: House Party nearly starred DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.
New Line Cinema’s House Party, written and directed by Reginald Hudlin, was a charming and often-hilarious 1990 feature film about two teenagers who throw a party at the home of one of the friends whose parents are away on vacation. As you might expect, the party gets out of control and hilarity ensues. The film was a hit, and launched the careers of a number of notable actors, including Martin Lawrence, Tisha Campbell and Daryl “Chill” Mitchell.
But the most attention was paid to the two stars, Christopher “Kid” Reid and Christopher “Play” Martin, who were already known as the hip-hop duo Kid ‘n’ Play. Their music career blossomed, they starred in two sequels to House Party and they even received their own Saturday-morning cartoon. However, amazingly enough, they nearly didn’t appear in the film. Instead, due to — of all things — Nightmare on Elm Street, DJ Jazzy Jeff & tTe Fresh Prince almost starred in House Party! Read on to see what happened …
Before becoming a movie superstar and solo singer, Will Smith was best known as the Fresh Prince, one-half of the hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, along with Jeffrey A. Townes. They had a major hit with the 1988 rap song “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” which won the very first Grammy for Best Rap Performance. Another hit for the duo that year was the song “A Nightmare on My Street,” which heavily samples the theme song from Nightmare on Elm Street and is basically about Smith fighting against Freddy Krueger. While I don’t know for sure, I would bet the song was written for possible inclusion in 1988‘s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master (as that film ended up featuring a different rap song by the Fat Boys). Whether the song was intended for the film or not, New Line Cinema, the studio behind A Nightmare on Elm Street, wasn’t happy about the unlicensed sampling nor that the song came out at the same time as the new Elm Street film, which created the impression that the two were connected. So New Line sued the duo, and the parties came to a financial settlement. Part of the deal included the destruction of a music video filmed for the single as well as adding a disclaimer to the record that the song had no connection to the horror franchise.
However, there was another interesting twist in the settlement (which showed some real creativity on New Line Cinema’s part): DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince were given the option of doing two movies for the studio. If they chose to do the films, their salaries would come out of the settlement money, so they could theoretically get away without having to pay out of pocket over the lawsuit. Or they could choose to turn down both scripts and pay the original settlement fee. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince planned on just turning down both scripts out of hand. The first script they were offered, as it turns out, was House Party.
Last year, DJ Jazzy Jeff spoke about the situation to Radio Milwaukee:
The first script was House Party because if you think about the premise of House Party — one dude was a DJ and the other was a rapper. So House Party was set up for Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. We weren’t thinking about doing movies back then. They were like, “What do you think about this?” and we were like, “Oh, we don’t like it.” And “What about this?” “Oh, we don’t like it. Ha! We out!”
Hudlin spoke about the story as well a couple of years ago and told the same story. He noted that he felt a bit uneasy about approaching the pair because he knew that if they signed on to the film, they’d only be doing so because of the lawsuit. Still, he didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to work with them, so he asked their manager Russell Simmons and was quickly rebuffed, just as DJ Jazzy Jeff explained.
Interestingly enough, a few years later Smith made his feature debut in Where the Day Takes You, a film by … New Line Cinema.
The legend is …
Thanks to DJ Jazzy Jeff and Reginald Hudlin for the information!
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