Interview: Boots Riley On Breaking Into Hollywood With ‘Sorry To Bother You’

There’s no simple way to describe Boots Riley’s directorial debut, Sorry to Bother You. Going into Sundance where I attended the world premiere, all I needed to know was that Boots directed it. Period. I had grown up a fan of his activist hip-hop group The Coup, and wondered how, if at all, he would bring the group’s radical, anti-capitalist messaging to the big screen. The answer was OF COURSE HE WOULD, but this is no simple movie with an easy-to-understand message. Nothing with Boots is ever quite so simple.

Much like Boots himself, Sorry to Bother You does not fit neatly into any particular box. At once a comedy, a savage political critque of capitalism and white patriarchy, and a surreal treatise on what it takes to survive as a black man, the film goes to many unexpected extremes. Sometimes Boots wants you to laugh at his hyper-stylized version of Oakland, where he pulls from his past telemarketing experience to tell the story of Cash (Lakeith Stanfield), an unemployed guy just trying to keep his head above water. Sometimes Boots wants to sober you up to some harsh truths about American society. Other times…well, other times Boots just seems content to fuck with your brain a little bit.

I was fortunate enough to speak with Boots about Sorry to Bother You, how he came up with the concept, and when he decided that filmmaking was the natural course for his career to take.We also discussed his many influences as a director and a musician, of which there are many and quite a few surprises.

Sorry to Bother You is in theaters now and you can check out my review here.

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