George Tillman Jr. was born and raised in Milwaukee, WI, and was inspired to pursue filmmaking after seeing the 1975 classic Cooley High. After attending John Marshall High School in Milwaukee, he went on to Columbia College Chicago and directed his first feature film, Scenes for the Soul, in 1991. But it was his follow-up that made him a household name. Soul Food, starring Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, and Mekhi Phifer, was Tillman’s second project as writer and director. The film achieved massive box office success and landed Tillman and his producing partner Bob Teitel a deal at Fox 2000, where they created their own company, State Street Pictures.
His next film, the epic Men of Honor starring Cuba Gooding Jr. and Robert De Niro, was inspired by the life of the U.S. Navy’s first African-American master deep sea diver. Tillman then shifted gears to producing, serving as executive producer of Soul Food: The Series for Showtime, and co-producer of Barbershop (the most profitable African-American-themed film of all time), Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Beauty Shop, and the 1970s-inspired coming-of-age comedy Roll Bounce.
After nearly a decade away, Tillman returned to directing with Notorious, the edgy biopic of slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. starring an unknown Jamal Woolard in the title role and Oscar nominee Angela Bassett. Tillman followed up Notorious with the action film Faster, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Billy Bob Thornton. His latest directorial effort, The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete, was written by fellow Milwaukee native Michael Starrbury and made its official U.S. premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It will be released theatrically beginning Oct. 11 through Lionsgate/Codeblack Films.
George Tillman Jr. is scheduled to appear at the following screenings:
USA | 2009 | 122 min
SATURDAY, SEPT 28 | NOON DOWNER THEATRE
The sensational journey of Chris Wallace (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) from street hustler to one of hip-hop’s all-time greats is chronicled in this propulsive biopic from director George Tillman Jr. As the film peels back the mythic image that has surrounded the influential musician, we watch Sean “Puffy” Combs turn B.I.G. (a remarkable turn from Jamal Woolard) into an overnight sensation only for him to learn “mo’ money, mo’ problems,” leading to his being senselessly gunned down at 24. Great supporting turns (Anthony Mackie, Angela Bassett) and sharp pacing lead this beat-infused celebration of a cultural icon that’s sure to hypnotize.
The Inevitable Defeat Of Mister and Pete
USA | 2013 | 108 min
SATURDAY, SEPT 28 | 7:30 PM ORIENTAL THEATRE
Fourteen-year-old Mister and demure 9-year-old Pete (star-making turns from Skylan Brooks and Ethan Dizon, respectively) are forced to fend for themselves after both of their drug-addled parents disappear amid a sweltering summer in the Brooklyn projects. Forced to scavenge for food while dodging child protective services and the cops, the two must live beyond their years if they have any chance of staving off their seemingly inevitable defeat. Supporting performances from Jordin Sparks, Jeffrey Wright, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Anthony Mackie and Jennifer Hudson bolster this beautifully observed tale of friendship in the face of great struggle.
For tickets to this or anything else happening as part of the 2013 Milwaukee Film Festival, visit mkefilm.org/tickets. Festival passes and ticket 6-packs are on sale now. Individual tickets available September 11 for Milwaukee Film Members, September 12 for the general public.