Friday, February 3, 2012

Foxy Grier!

Tonight, as part of a Black History Month Celebration, TD, Clement Virgo & the Canadian Film Centre paid tribute to one of my all-time favourite actresses -- the beautiful and talented, Pam Grier.

As a black adolescent in Montreal, I didn't see many black heroes on TV -- so seeing a young, tough, rifle-wielding Pam Grier on screen was quite the phenomenon.  Her action films Coffy, Foxy Brown and 'Sheba-Baby' not only solidified her as a superstar, but left an indelible impression on me.  Today, at 43, I still get excited when I see Pam Grier's name in movie credits.

After director Clement Virgo presented an epic film reel that celebrated her memorable roles, Grier nervously walked out amidst cheers and whistles from her adoring fans.  Wearing a sharp black ensemble, she quickly became relaxed after a few funny exchanges with actress/moderator, Sharon Lewis.

The interview covered her successful film career, her experience with racism in Hollywood and her difficult private life.  One of the most revealing moments occurred when she shared the story of being raped at the ages of 6 and 18.  Despite these excruciating events, she learned to persevere -- even when she had to recreate the brutal acts on film.  In fact, Grier used her real-life trauma to bring realism to her characters' devastation.

When asked about racism in Hollywood in the early 70's, Grier didn't hesitate to say that she harboured no resentment.  "As black actors, we were happy to be on this maiden voyage in cinema."  Grier amusingly shared that black stuntwomen didn't exist in her time; instead, producers resorted putting black make-up and padded bras on "skinny white men" to double for her.

Grier credits indie-director Quentin Tarantino for resuscitating her career in the 90's.  "I met him in the street and couldn't believe that the guy who directed Pulp Fiction couldn't afford shoes."  During that chance meeting, Tarantino informed her that he was writing a pivotal part for her in his latest film, but she wasn't convinced.  Later, she was shocked to find a script for Jackie Brown in her mailbox.  To her astonishment, Tarantino kept his promise and for that, she will always be grateful.

When the topic of today's female black action-stars came up, Grier quickly saluted Star Trek's Zoe Saldana and Mission Impossible 4's Paula Patton for their fine work, but she refuses to take credit as their trailblazer -- even after Lewis insisted.

What's next for the iconic actress?  Soon, she'll be the subject of a film, based on her life and book "Foxy: My Life in Three Acts" and she'll appear in a Coffy reboot.

The legend continues.

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