Most female-led action films tend to hit some of the same beats, with the same obstacles and threats present throughout their courses of action. And if it wasn't for producer Paul Schiff's influence early on, Proud Mary would have seen Taraji P. Henson going through some of the same rote motions that those types of films are known for. Thankfully, Schiff used his clout to transform the project into Henson's latest star vehicle, which is pretty different from what was originally intended.
During our set visit this past spring to the Boston shoot of Proud Mary, Paul Schiff was on hand to answer a quick round of questions in-between takes. But that was all it took to see that this project had quite the journey to the screen, as he explained how he'd found the script, and was involved in the push to redevelop the story from the spec script he'd first stumbled on into a more progressive / camera-ready project for a star the caliber of Taraji P. Henson. Schiff told us:
The story of her sort of finding her purpose and her heart again through this relationship with this kid, it just was really compelling. ... Over the course of the development of the screenplay, we probed more carefully and more deeply into the relationship of Danny and Mary, and really kind of committed to that as the emotional core of the movie. So that it's not only a thriller with action, and an exciting ride, but that there's also a genuine, real human relationship and real emotional experience at the core of the story. Folks who are interested in the action will certainly get what they want, but they'll get a lot more than they expected because there will be a very moving and emotional experience at the core.
That course of development for Proud Mary took place over years of re-writes that developed the character of Taraji P. Henson's Mary into someone who, as Schiff described during this conversation, was numbed by her profession and the makeshift family that took her in during her early years . But perhaps one of the biggest changes made to the script, at least one of ones that was discussed during our press day, came from Proud Mary co-star Billy Brown. During the discussion between Brown and the select group of journalists on hand for the film's press day, the actor confirmed that the original script he was given was much different than the one that was shot.
It's no surprise for a film like Proud Mary to make some changes to its approach so that the audience will side with a character that even Taraji P. Henson has admitted is someone that you really need to be convinced to like. You can blame her colorful profession and harsh upbringing for that, as well as years of such moments being used as emotional shorthand. However, from the sounds of the development the script to Proud Mary had undergone, the focus is more on Mary's rough edges, as well as her relationship with Danny, the boy she runs into on the job. Still, don't expect Proud Mary to cheat on the action. Not by any stretch.
While the studio may still see the film as an action extravaganza, to a certain extent, Billy Brown, Paul Schiff, and the folks behind Proud Mary certainly know the truth. Keeping that in mind, feel free to check out the first trailer to the film, which definitely maintains the action heavy tone that folks would expect from a film like Proud Mary.
On January 12, we will see just what Proud Mary has become in her years-long journey of development. But you don't have to wait that long to get to the movies, as the next couple of weeks have some big ticket thrills of their own. Head over to our 2017 release schedule to see what's closing out the year in style.