Tony Parker Has Eyes On Making Hollywood Films, Co-Produced 'Birth Of A Nation'
THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Sacramento, Calif. — Tony Parker was born in the country of France, but the San Antonio Spurs’ point guard also happens to be immersed in America’s history, particularly Black History.
When actor and director Nate Parker approached the 15-year NBA veteran about financing a film related to Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia, Tony Parker, no relations to Nate, didn’t hesitate to write out a check along with other investors in the project.
“He (Nate Parker), his wife (Sarah DiSanto), my wife (Axelle Francine) and I had dinner one night and Nate was so passionate and determined to talk about it,” Tony Parker said. “I was sitting there thinking that there was no way I was not going to invest in this movie.”
San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker dribbles past Sacramento Kings guard Ty Lawson at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Nov. 16, 2016 (Photo courtesy of the San Antonio Spurs).
Nate Parker directed, produced, co-wrote, and starred in the Birth of Nation, a film about an enslaved Bible-toting preacher who led a revolt against slave owners and their families in Southhampton County, Virginia. The film has been under siege with controversy as well as possible Oscar considerations.
The film cost around $9 million to make, and reportedly, the funds was raised by Nate Parker Jason Michael Berman of Mandalay Pictures, and screenwriter Kevin Turen. Film producers, proprietors, and professional athletes jumped on board with the project.
Tony Parker, 34, is using his business clout as a foray into filmmaking. It’s one area the Belgium-born athlete intends to build a bridge out of that will connect him to Hollywood after his playing days are over in the NBA.
“I was touched by the story, I love movies and television shows, and I was deeply interested in getting into the film business,” Tony Park said. “I also wanted to invest into movies that would impact social life and the life we live in.”
Although a lot of Black History yarns go unnoticed, the Nat Turner rebellion happens to be one of those stories that was mentioned countless of times in public school’s history books, a known fact William Anthony “Tony” Parker is also aware of since his father, Tony Parker Sr., is from Chicago.
Tony Parker was raised in France but is methodically in touch with his American roots. With a geographical concentration in America and Europe, he uses them both as an advantage and a privilege.
“You know, people forget about it but my dad is an American from Chicago,” he said. “Obviously, I grew up in Europe but I have a lot of knowledge of American history and European history. For me, I’ve always like that I have the best of both worlds.”
San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker dribbles past Sacramento Kings guard Ty Lawson at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, Calif., on Nov. 16, 2016 (Publicity Agents photo art by. T. Ray Harvey).
American history is also important to other professional athletes. Sacramento Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, 26, is impressed with the Birth of a Nation film and how it relayed a story unknown to many of his generation.
“When It comes to the truth nobody wants to hear about it,” Cousins said after viewing the film in Sacramento, Calif. “What I took from it is the truth. When I saw all those postings (on social networks) I thought it was crazy. The movie ‘12 Years a Slave’ hit numbers. But when the truth comes out (about a rebellion) it don’t sell. To me, it was excellent.”
Another reason why the Birth of Nation achieved excellence was the involvement of Michael Finley. Finley, a Chicago native, played in the NBA and was on one of the championship teams with Tony Parker in San Antonio.
Finley has a film company, Follow Through Productions, which helped fund Lee Daniels’ The Butler and actor Richard Gere’s The Benefactor. Fox Searchlight Pictures purchased Birth of a Nation for a record $17 million after its success at the Sundance Film Festival.
To date, Birth of a Nation has made more than $15 million at the box office and expects to grow in dollars once it’s released in DVD form. For Tony Parker, with special thanks to Finley, their investments are turning profits for the benefactors.
“It’s definitely something I want to do, go into the film industry, because with Mike (Finley) I felt comfortable,” Tony Parker said of his former teammate. “He started before me, I use his knowledge, and his guidance to make sure that I (develop) the right projects.”
(Publicity Agents photo art by. T. Ray Harvey, Sacramento Calif., Nov. 16, 2016).
It is extremely important for professional athletes to find a productive niche following their careers. Many athletes have done well selecting career paths that extend well beyond their years on a basketball court, an ice rink, baseball diamond, golf course or football field.
Tony Parker is also majority shareholder in ASVEL Basket, a professional basketball team located in Lyon, France. ASVEL owns 18 French Championships and eight French cups. He is also a music artist and first ambassador for the non-profit Make-A-Wish France.
Aside from his career in basketball, Tony Parker is one of those persons looking to make the world a better place. The Nat Turner story, and Nate Parker’s persistence to bring the film to the silver screen, opened a door that leads to his journey of educating people about the world they live in.
“When I read the story, I was humbled by the sacrifice Nat made for us to have a better life,” Tony Parker said. “It was a great movie for me to invest in. I’m very passionate about it. I was absolutely intrigued about that part of American history. When I read the story I said, ‘This is the story that has to be told.’”
By T. Ray Harvey | PA Public Information Officer
T. Ray (Antonio) Harvey is a Public Information Officer and Photo Artist for Publicity Agents. Harvey is also the author of The HOMICIDAL HANDYMAN OF OAK PARK: MORRIS SOLOMON JR.
(Birth of a Nation film poster courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures).
On the Cutting-Room Floor
* Tony Parker on Nate Parker: ““I love Nate. Obviously, his passion was just unbelieveable on this movie. Like everyday he was sending me reports on how filming was going. He was doing everything — acting, producing, directing, he co-wrote the film — he did everything. The movie was successful because of Nate Parker.”
* The day after the San Antonio Spurs beat the Sacramento Kings 110-105, Tony Parker trucked down to Los Angeles to play hoops with actors and producers George Clooney and Matt Damon. Parker posted an Instagram with the Hollywood heavyweights at Warner Bros. studio.
Parker has produced other flicks, including Meet the Black and Amateur Night. The NBA point guard is taking on the role as executive producer for The First To Do It documentary. The subject matter is about Earl Lloyd, the first Black athlete to play in the NBA.
Right out of West Virginia State College, Lloyd, 6-foot-5, was picked by the Washington Capitols in the ninth round of the 1950 NBA Draft. Also known as "Big Cat," Lloyd won NBA championship with the Syracuse Nationals in 1955. He passed away at the age of 86 on Feb. 26, 2015.
"Birth of a Nation's" Title Is Not The First To Appear In Films
The 1915 silent film Birth of a Nation is nothing like the 2016 version of the film that is based on the Nat Turner slave revolt. Directed by D.W. Griffith, the movie released 101 years ago was derived from a novel play The Clansmen. The three-hour film glorified the Ku Klux Klan.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) tried unsuccessfully to ban its release. The cast, starring the legendary female actor Lillian Gish, was entirely of Caucasian with many of them in Blackface to portray African Americans.
Riots, or rebellions, broke out in several America cities with reports of Whites attacking Black people. More disturbing, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson screened the film on March 21, 1915, was quoted for these remarks: "It is like writing history with lightning , and my only regret is that is all terribly true.
Griffith would later form United Artists films with actors Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks Sr., and Charlie Chaplin. Birth of Nation. The United States Library of Congress holds the film "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.