There are a number of intimate and heartfelt moments in the Columbia Pictures romantic drama directed by Denzel Washington, which tells the true story of the late 1st Sgt. Charles Monroe King (Jordan) and his love, journalist-turned-publisher Dana Canedy (Chanté Adams). But in one particular love scene, the camera captures Jordan in the buff, with the frame just wide enough to show the actor’s butt.
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It’s a brief (or lack thereof) moment, but if a woman’s ear-piercing scream in this reporter’s screening of the movie is any indication, there’s no way audiences will miss it.
When Variety asked the award-winning actor what reaction he expected when he first learned of the scene, Jordan chuckled as he searched for the appropriate words.
“I don’t think it was written like that, so I don’t think I read anything that was like, “Oh yeah, Charles walks in and his butt [flashes] across the screen,” Jordan explained. “It was more of in the moment, like, how are we shooting this shot? … And, we went for it.”
“We knew the movie that we were making,” the actor concluded. “And we wanted something that would give people what they want, so that’s what we went for.”
Speaking of that butt-baring scene, Washington noted that the framing of the shot was cinematographer Maryse Alberti’s idea.
“In the case of this story, it was deliberate,” Washington told Variety’s Clayton Davis about tapping Alberti to lens this movie. “I wanted a woman’s perspective. I wanted to see the movie through her eyes. What does a woman see? Maybe she sees something another male DP wouldn’t necessarily look at — like shooting a particular part of Michael B. Jordan’s body that I may not have decided to shoot.”
Bottom line — “A Journal for Jordan” is a tribute to King and Canedy’s once-in-a-lifetime love story, and as such, Jordan and Adams worked hard to get their chemistry just right. Washington first assembled the pair of actors for rehearsals about a month before the film began production, which Adams says was particularly helpful.
“We rehearsed probably for like four to five hours a day,” Adams recalled. “Going over the scenes, breaking down the script, just talking about Dana and Charles, creating our own backstories for them for the answers that we didn’t get from the book or from Dana. I think that is what helped us build such amazing chemistry.”
From a filmmaker’s perspective, casting the right actors was key to creating those sparks. “The most important thing for me was finding this young woman who was the right — not just match — but just equal in power, strength and ability with Mike,” Washington explained. “Because Michael B. is this big star and Chanté brought it.”
Telling a true story such as this one is a weighty feat. In 2008, Canedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist (formerly of the New York Times) and now senior vice president and publisher of Simon & Schuster, published “A Journal for Jordan,” the memoir about her life with her war-hero partner and the journal that he wrote for their son as a guide to life and love before he was killed in action in Iraq. The emotional book went on to become a New York Times bestseller and served as the ultimate guide for Washington’s film adaptation, with a screenplay from Virgil Williams.
“They were real people that went through obstacles … they weren’t each other’s ideal person when they first met, but they grew to be each other’s soulmate,” Jordan said, explaining what attracted him to this story. “That’s something beautiful and awesome, so to be able to have a hand in telling that story, it’s something that’s special.”
Though both Adams and Jordan have played real people before — Adams burst onto the scene with the Sundance-award “Roxanne Roxanne,” in which she portrayed hip-hop legend Roxanne Shanté, while Jordan has starred in true-life tales like “Fruitvale Station” and “Just Mercy” — Adams admits that playing Canedy was “nerve-wracking.”
“Denzel was very adamant about making sure I knew that this was not a biopic about her life; this was a biopic about the love that her and her fiancé shared,” Adams said.
So, the actor reached out to Canedy a couple weeks after getting the role. “I was very nervous; I mean, anxiety through the roof, just because I knew how much weight this project held and that it meant so much more to her,” Adams said, recalling that first meeting. “I just wanted to honor that and I wanted to honor her.”
Ultimately, Adams and Jordan earned a glowing review from Canedy, who was impressed by the way the actors disappeared into their roles.
“I was sort of amazed by that,” Canedy gushed. “I thought that obviously audiences would get caught up in the character and see us, but I saw us and that’s a testament to their talent.”
Reflecting on her takeaways from seeing her story played out on the big screen, Canedy is hopeful that audiences will be moved by the movie too.
“As it relates to military service, I’m hoping that folks will understand at even more of a visceral level what that sacrifice is like,” she said. “But I also hope, in general, that what folks come away from this movie with is an uplifting story about love.”
“A Journal for Jordan” debuts in theaters on Dec. 25.
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