The superstar-backed indie film Dope, which opens Friday, is an ode to the 1990s — think fade haircuts and Walkman players. Co-producer Mimi Valdés, who is also chief creative officer of Pharrell Williams’ multimedia company, i am OTHER, dished on the film’s script, soundtrack and its budding stars.
In Dope, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) are caught between a literal rock and a hard place. The high school nerds navigate their tough California neighborhood, running from bullies, playing in their punk band — and deciding what dangerous block to take home. After attending a birthday party for a gangster, Dom (A$AP Rocky), Malcolm, who wants to attend Harvard, finds drugs in his backpack.
“It seems to be resonating because it feels so unconventional,” Valdés said.
Credits for the film, narrated by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, include co-executive producer Sean “Diddy” Combs, executive producer Williams and director and writer Rick Famuyiwa (Brown Sugar). Rapper Tyga and Rick Fox make cameos too.
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Valdés equates Dope to a great album. She said the film caters to millennials, referencing everything from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air to the 2000 presidential election and Amazon. She called it a “roller-coaster ride of different emotions.”
Williams, who curated the movie’s soundtrack, which includes the likes of Nas and Public Enemy, wrote four songs for Malcolm’s movie band, Awreeoh (pronounced like the cookie Oreo).
“He really wanted to capture the angst of these kids,” Valdés said. “The music definitely feels like another character in the film.”
She recalled looking up the actors online after they were cast, hoping to discover musical talent, because they needed to deliver on the Grammy Award winner’s songs (Williams came up with the band’s name, too). They ended up recording the four songs in just two days.
Safe to say, the music turned out just fine.
“The kids would definitely love to do more Awreeoh songs,” Valdés said. “The door is not shut.”
These days, Valdés is building up the media division of Williams’ company, hoping to make more movies and contribute unique voices, stories and perspectives.
“We just want to be a champion in Hollywood,” Valdés said.