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According to a 1 May 1990 DV news item, Image Organization co-founder Pierre David planned to develop and produce as many as four independent feature films in the next year, under his Lance Entertainment banner. Three of David’s projects were in “early stages of development” at Paramount Pictures, including Deep Cover, which he planned to produce with Henry Bean, the screenwriter with whom he collaborated on 1990’s Internal Affairs (see entry), also for Paramount. An article in the 12 Apr 1992 LAT stated that neither David nor Bean envisioned a black protagonist when they first developed the story. However, inspired by the recent successes of African-American filmmaker Spike Lee, Paramount production executive Gary Lucchesi wanted to produce similar fare and suggested rewriting the main character as black. Screenwriter Michael Tolkin was brought in to write a first draft, after which Bean handled revisions.
       When a revised draft of Deep Cover was submitted to Paramount, it was rejected, and the film was put into turnaround. David and Bean subsequently brought the project to “every major studio” in Hollywood, but they were uniformly turned down. Many of the studios, including Paramount, suggested changing the main character back to a white man. However, Bean had come to believe that the black ethnicity of “Russell Stevens, Jr./‘John Q. Hull’” added depth to the character, and he resisted the change. In Mar 1991, Mario Van Peebles’s New Jack City (see entry) had a strong opening, thus inducing New Line Pictures, which had previously rejected Deep Cover, to take on the project. The studio planned to spend $5-$6 million on ... More Less

According to a 1 May 1990 DV news item, Image Organization co-founder Pierre David planned to develop and produce as many as four independent feature films in the next year, under his Lance Entertainment banner. Three of David’s projects were in “early stages of development” at Paramount Pictures, including Deep Cover, which he planned to produce with Henry Bean, the screenwriter with whom he collaborated on 1990’s Internal Affairs (see entry), also for Paramount. An article in the 12 Apr 1992 LAT stated that neither David nor Bean envisioned a black protagonist when they first developed the story. However, inspired by the recent successes of African-American filmmaker Spike Lee, Paramount production executive Gary Lucchesi wanted to produce similar fare and suggested rewriting the main character as black. Screenwriter Michael Tolkin was brought in to write a first draft, after which Bean handled revisions.
       When a revised draft of Deep Cover was submitted to Paramount, it was rejected, and the film was put into turnaround. David and Bean subsequently brought the project to “every major studio” in Hollywood, but they were uniformly turned down. Many of the studios, including Paramount, suggested changing the main character back to a white man. However, Bean had come to believe that the black ethnicity of “Russell Stevens, Jr./‘John Q. Hull’” added depth to the character, and he resisted the change. In Mar 1991, Mario Van Peebles’s New Jack City (see entry) had a strong opening, thus inducing New Line Pictures, which had previously rejected Deep Cover, to take on the project. The studio planned to spend $5-$6 million on marketing.
       A 10 May 1991 HR item stated that Bill Duke would direct. At the time, Duke’s debut feature film, A Rage in Harlem (1991, see entry), was in its second week of release. Principal photography was slated to begin in Aug 1991. Denzel Washington was first offered the role of Russell Stevens, Jr., but turned it down, as noted in the 12 Apr 1992 LAT. Wesley Snipes was also considered before Larry Fishburne was cast. Bill Duke aimed to have as multiracial a cast as possible, and toyed with the idea of writing in an estranged, white wife for Fishburne’s character. New Line reportedly objected to the idea, concerned that the “issue of miscegenation might overshadow the main premise.”
       A 26 Aug 1991 HR item confirmed the casting of Larry Fisbhurne and stated that filming would begin the following month. According to Bill Duke in a 10 Apr 1992 HR “Hollywood Report” column, the original production budget at Paramount was $10 million, but the picture was ultimately produced for less than $7 million. Other sources, including the 10 May 1991 HR, cited a final budget of $8 million.
       The opening sequence, set in Cleveland, OH, at Christmas time, was shot in Culver City, CA, with fake foam snow. Duke originally wanted to shoot the scene on a stretch of Broadway in downtown Los Angeles, but budget constrictions required a location change to a street in Culver City, which Duke had remembered from an episode of Knots Landing that he directed. Other locations included the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro, CA, where Russell Stevens, Jr.’s meeting with “Hector Guzman” took place. The most expensive sequence to shoot was the limousine chase, filmed over the course of three nights.
       Deep Cover was first screened for the public at the American Film Market (AFM), according to a 2 Mar 1992 HR brief. It was also shown as part of Santa Monica College’s “Cinema Plus” preview series, with Bill Duke and Jeff Goldblum in attendance for a question-and-answer session, as noted in the 10 Apr 1992 HR. The film opened in select cities on 15 Apr 1992, and nationwide two days later.
       Critical reception was lukewarm, but the picture was a moderate commercial success, taking in a cumulative domestic gross of $16,627,648 by late Aug 1992, as noted in a 25 Aug 1992 DV box-office chart.
       End credits include “Special Thanks” to Hillard Elkins and Peter Marai, and, “A Very Special Thanks” to: Jerry Ziesmer, additional 1st assistant director; Warren F. Turner, additional 2nd assistant director; and Robert Scott, 2nd second assistant director. Key grip Darrell Sheldon’s name is misspelled “Darrel Sheldon,” and songwriter Roy Ayers’s name is misspelled “Roy Ayres.” The surname of stunt coordinator Greg W. Elam is misspelled as "Elan."
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SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
1 May 1990.
---
Hollywood Reporter
26 Aug 1991.
---
Hollywood Reporter
2 Mar 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
10 May 1991
p. 6, 94.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Apr 1992.
---
Los Angeles Times
12 Apr 1992
Calendar, p. 25.
Los Angeles Times
15 Apr 1992
p. 8.
New York Times
15 Apr 1992
p. 19.
Screen Interntional
2 Aug 1991.
---
Variety
20 Apr 1992
pp. 45-46.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
New Line Cinema presents
a Pierre David/Henry Bean production
a Bill Duke film
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dir
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
Dir, 2d unit
Dir, 2d unit
1st asst dir, 2d unit
2d asst dir, 2d unit
Addl 1st asst dir, Very special thanks to
Addl 2d asst dir, Very special thanks to
2d 2d asst dir, Very special thanks to
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Exec prod
Co-exec prod
WRITERS
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
1st asst cam
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Addl 2d cam
Best boy elec
Elec
Addl elec
Addl elec
Key grip
Key grip
Key grip
Best boy grip
Dolly grip
Addl dolly grip
Addl dolly grip
Rig gaffer
Stills photog
Dir of photog, 2d unit
Cam op, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
1st asst cam, 2d unit
Gaffer, 2d unit
Key grip, 2d unit
Prod video
Prod video, Tech-FX
ART DIRECTORS
Prod des
Art dir
Art dept coord
Storyboard artist
FILM EDITORS
Post prod supv
1st asst ed
Asst ed
Negative cutting
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
On-set dresser
Swing gang
Swing gang
Swing gang
Prop master
Asst prop master
Asst props
Asst props
Const coord
Lead scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Addl scenic
Const foreman
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Carpenter
Painter
Painter
Painter
Prop master, 2d unit
COSTUMES
Ward supv
Ward supv
Ward cont
Set costumer
Set costumer
Set costumer
Alterations
Ward, 2d unit
Fashions provided by
for North Beach Leather
MUSIC
Mus supv
Mus supv
Score eng by
Score musician
Score musician
Mus coord
Mus coord
Mus coord
Mus coord
Solar/Epic soundtrack exec prod
Solar/Epic soundtrack exec prod
Epic/Solar song supv
Mus coord for Solar/Epic
Mus coord for Solar/Epic
Mus coord for Solar/Epic
Epic "Glueboy"
Epic "Glueboy"
Mouthpieces
Mouthpieces
Mouthpieces
Mouthpieces
SOUND
Sd mixer
Supv sd ed
Sd des/Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Supv dial ed
Dial ed
Dial ed
ADR ed
ADR rec
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
ADR mixer
Foley mixer
Foley artist
Foley artist
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec asst
Dir of sd services
Digital sd & re-rec by
ADR voice casting by
Dolby consultant
VISUAL EFFECTS
Process compositing by
Eff coord
Eff coord
Asst spec eff
Main title seq and opt eff des
MAKEUP
Key make-up/Make-up eff
Asst make-up artist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Hairstylist
Make-up/Hair asst
PRODUCTION MISC
Casting
Exec in charge of prod
Exec in charge of post prod
Prod coord
Scr supv
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Asst accountant
Asst prod coord
Asst to Mr. David
Asst to Mr. David
Asst to Mr. Streit
Asst to Mr. Streit
Asst to Mr. Duke
Casting asst
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Prod attorney
Contract supv
Legal asst
Prod controller
Asst to Ms. Moore
Asst to Mr. De Luca
Prod office admin
Product placement
Post accounting mgr
Post prod coord
Post prod admin
Transportation coord
Transportation capt
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Driver
Prod van driver
Loc services provided by
Loc services, Pacific Production Services
Policeman
Policeman
Key set prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Tech adv
Catering provided by
Chef's helper
Chef's helper
Craft services
Craft services
First aid
Extras casting
Payroll services
Loc equip by
Insurance provided by
Paintings donated by
Created designed sculptured by
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
"Deep Cover," performed by Dr. Dre, introducing Snoop Doggy Dogg, by Dr. Dre, Colin Wolfe, courtesy of Death Row Records
"Love Or Lust," performed by Jewel, by Dr. Dre, Colin Wolfe, Eric "The Drunk" Borders, courtesy of Death Row Records
"Silent Night," performed by 101 Strings, by E.L. Hefe, courtesy of Alshire International, Inc., by arrangement with Original Sound Entertainment
+
SONGS
"Deep Cover," performed by Dr. Dre, introducing Snoop Doggy Dogg, by Dr. Dre, Colin Wolfe, courtesy of Death Row Records
"Love Or Lust," performed by Jewel, by Dr. Dre, Colin Wolfe, Eric "The Drunk" Borders, courtesy of Death Row Records
"Silent Night," performed by 101 Strings, by E.L. Hefe, courtesy of Alshire International, Inc., by arrangement with Original Sound Entertainment
"Linda Mexicana," written & performed by Marcos Loya, courtesy of Spindletop Records
"Nickel Slick Nigga," performed by Ko-Kane, by J. Long, E. Birdsong, R. Ayres, courtesy of Ruthless/Epic
"Yo Te Quiero," written & performed by Marcos Loya, courtesy of Spindletop Records
"Cueros Y Cuerdas/Skins And Strings," written & performed by Marcos Loya, courtesy of Spindeltop Records
"The Way" (Is In The House), performed by Calloway, by Reggie Calloway, Vincent Calloway, Keith Robertson, Steve Beckham, courtesy of Solar/Epic
"Depth Of Thought," written & performed by Nate Phillips
"Down Wi' My Nigga," performed by Paradise, by Snoop Doggy Dogg, 3-2, courtesy of Death Row Records
"Mr. Lover Man," performed by Shabba Ranks, with Chevelle Franklin, by R. Gordon, M. Bennett, H. Lindo, courtesy of Epic
"The Sex Is On," performed by Po' Broke & Lonely, by C. Taylor, R.C. Monge, M. Lynn, courtesy of Ruthless/Epic
"Digits," performed by The Deele, by Mark Taylor, courtesy of Solar/Epic
"I See Ya Jay," performed by Ragtime, by Bilal Bashir & Johnathan Scott
"Typical Relationship," performed by Times 3, by Zach Harmon, Christopher Troy, Valerie Davis, courtesy of Solar/Epic.
+
PERFORMERS
+
DETAILS
Release Date:
15 April 1992
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles and New York openings: 15 April 1992
Production Date:
began September 1991
Copyright Claimant:
New Line Productions, Inc.
Copyright Date:
13 July 1992
Copyright Number:
PA571779
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses/Prints
Camera and lenses by Clairmont Camera, Inc.
Prints
Film House
Duration(in mins):
107
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
31647
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1972 Cleveland, Ohio, young Russell Stevens, Jr. witnesses his drug addicted father holding up a liquor store and shooting the clerk. As he flees the store, Russell’s father is shot dead. Twenty years later, Russell has joined the police force, vowing never to become like his father. However, a psychological examination reveals him to have a criminal mindset, and he is recruited to take part in an undercover investigation of drug lord Anton Gallegos. Despite the fact that he has never done drugs or drunk alcohol, Russell is sent by his new boss, Gerald “Jerry” Carver, to Los Angeles, California, to pose as a drug dealer named “John Q. Hull.” His objective is to take down the illegal cocaine ring headed by Gallegos, and linked to Gallegos’s uncle, Latin American politician Hector Guzman. Arriving in Los Angeles, Russell rents a room at the seedy Hastings Hotel. He notices Belinda, a crack cocaine addict who lives across the hall, and her neglected son, Jimmy. Russell establishes himself as a small-time drug dealer, and takes care of Jimmy by giving him money for food. After going into business with Eddie, an erratic, drug-addicted dealer who gives Russell’s name to police, Russell is targeted in a sting operation. He is arrested for making a large purchase of cocaine, but is saved by David Jason, a corrupt attorney who proves that the drugs Russell bought were actually baby laxatives. Russell agrees to team with David Jason, who plans to build a new drug empire with a synthetic form of cocaine currently in development. In the meantime, Russell takes Eddie’s place in the drug ring, answering directly to Anton Gallegos’s operative, Felix ... +


In 1972 Cleveland, Ohio, young Russell Stevens, Jr. witnesses his drug addicted father holding up a liquor store and shooting the clerk. As he flees the store, Russell’s father is shot dead. Twenty years later, Russell has joined the police force, vowing never to become like his father. However, a psychological examination reveals him to have a criminal mindset, and he is recruited to take part in an undercover investigation of drug lord Anton Gallegos. Despite the fact that he has never done drugs or drunk alcohol, Russell is sent by his new boss, Gerald “Jerry” Carver, to Los Angeles, California, to pose as a drug dealer named “John Q. Hull.” His objective is to take down the illegal cocaine ring headed by Gallegos, and linked to Gallegos’s uncle, Latin American politician Hector Guzman. Arriving in Los Angeles, Russell rents a room at the seedy Hastings Hotel. He notices Belinda, a crack cocaine addict who lives across the hall, and her neglected son, Jimmy. Russell establishes himself as a small-time drug dealer, and takes care of Jimmy by giving him money for food. After going into business with Eddie, an erratic, drug-addicted dealer who gives Russell’s name to police, Russell is targeted in a sting operation. He is arrested for making a large purchase of cocaine, but is saved by David Jason, a corrupt attorney who proves that the drugs Russell bought were actually baby laxatives. Russell agrees to team with David Jason, who plans to build a new drug empire with a synthetic form of cocaine currently in development. In the meantime, Russell takes Eddie’s place in the drug ring, answering directly to Anton Gallegos’s operative, Felix Barbosa. With Jason as his partner, Russell becomes a highly successful dealer. Jerry Carver advises him to move into a nice house and purchase an expensive car, and Russell begins to enjoy the spoils of his criminal behavior. One day, he witnesses one of his underlings getting shot by rival drug dealer “Ivy.” Jason urges him to retaliate. Russell is conflicted, but ultimately stalks Ivy in a nightclub and shoots him dead in the bathroom. Jason introduces Russell to Betty McCutcheon, who runs an art gallery through which Jason launders his drug money. Russell begins dating Betty, and becomes increasingly ambitious in his plan to take down Gallegos and Guzman. He aims to purchase drugs from Gallegos directly, instead of going through Felix Barbosa. At a celebratory dinner, Barbosa senses David Jason’s disloyalty and beats him. Barbosa then enlists Hernandez, a corrupt policeman, to set up a drug bust that exposes Jason, Russell, and Betty. Russell gets word of the plan from Carver, who commands him to abandon Jason and Betty before the bust. Worried that he will lose his connection to Gallegos if Jason goes to jail, Russell disobeys Carver’s orders and accompanies Jason and Betty to an empty parking lot where Barbosa awaits. Russell claims not to trust Barbosa, and finds a wiretap on his tie. Police descend, but Russell, Jason, and Betty narrowly escape in a limousine, taking Barbosa hostage. Jason exacts revenge against Barbosa by shooting his knuckles and pushing him out of the moving car. Barbosa is hit by a police car, and killed. Later, Gallegos informs Russell and Jason that Barbosa owed $1.8 million, and they are now responsible for his debts. He gives them three days to pay him back. Meanwhile, Carver forbids Russell from going any further with the investigation. Russell learns that the federal government no longer wishes to incriminate Hector Guzman for political reasons, but he defiantly sticks with his plan. He and Jason deliver only $1.1 million to Gallegos, which prompts a gunfight. They shoot and kill Gallegos and his two guards. Afterward, the two rob a van transporting an estimated $100 million in cash. Russell tells the driver, who works for Hector Guzman, that the money will be held hostage until Guzman agrees to meet. Police detective Taft, Hernandez’s upright partner, follows Russell and Jason to the shipping dock where they have arranged to meet Guzman, and calls for backup when the politician arrives. Russell and Jason propose the following deal: they will return eighty percent of Guzman’s money, and keep the other twenty percent as an investment on their synthetic cocaine venture. Guzman agrees just as one of his men discovers Taft. Before the deal can be finalized, Guzman and his men leave, without their money. Taft cannot arrest them due to Guzman’s diplomatic status, but he goes after Russell and Jason. When Russell confesses to being an undercover policeman, Jason shoots Taft dead and points his gun at Russell, but Russell is quicker on the draw, and shoots Jason dead. Shortly after, a subcommittee is arranged to investigate Russell’s undercover activities. Carver forbids him from denigrating the police force, and threatens to have Betty charged with fraud if not. During the interrogation, Russell claims his operation was nearly successful, then presents a videotape of his meeting with Guzman, a political ally to the U.S. An uproar ensues. Russell walks out with Betty, but is hounded by reporters, asking about his accusations against Guzman. Catching up with Russell, Carver demands to know what happened to Guzman’s money. Russell kicks him in the groin and leaves. Sometime later, Russell and Betty go to a graveyard with Russell’s former neighbor, Jimmy, whose mother recently died of a crack cocaine overdose. Russell leaves a wad of bloody cash on the grave, and contemplates the $11 million he stole from Guzman’s van. Even though it was wrong, Russell believes it would have been foolish to turn the money in to the authorities. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.