Behind the Sounds: Lorene Scafaria and Jason Markey on ‘Hustlers’

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Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Constance Wu star in "Hustlers." Credit: Barbara Nitke.

In the film “Hustlers,” two ambitious strippers take the Robin Hood trope of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, and flips it on its head. 

The audience is transported back to 2007, where the economy is soaring. We meet Destiny and Ramona, who are making a decent living by  dancing at their club. Then the stock market crashes. They start robbing and eventually drugging their Wall Street clients. Their scheme lifts them -- and the club -- up financially. 

The music backing the film is a combination of mid 1980s to early 1990s pop and hip-hop, Chopin and classic rock. It takes us through the women's rise to the top, and spoiler, their eventual arrests. And it's all based on a true story. 

The film opens with a voiceover from Janet Jackson off of her single “Control,” where she says, “This is a story about control. My control. Control of what I say, control of what I do. And this time, I'm gonna do it my way.”

Director Lorene Scafaria says she wasn’t sure she would have made the movie without the song. 

“This cue in particular sets up the theme of the movie,” she says. “And it speaks a lot to empowerment. But I think just because we're in power doesn't mean we're in control.” 

Scafaria began writing music cues into the script before she even knew that she landed the directing job. She says that it was important not to just create the images written, but the sound of it. That made the job for her music supervisor, Jason Markey, particularly difficult. 

In an edit, a frame can mean so much. It's a fraction of time… For a song, a note can mean so much,” Scafaria says. “You end on a certain note, you end on a different note. That's a completely different feeling.” 

That was particularly crucial when seeking out the rights to the Chopin cues, performed by Thomas Lire, that appear throughout the film.

“We had scoured the planet, the internet. I was calling professional pianists and composers and everybody I could possibly think of. And nobody knew who this person was,” Markey says. “And one day, one of the ladies who works for me, Meredith, was looking at some artwork online. She's like, ‘I think this is the same music.’ She came running in my office and played it. I'm like, ‘That is the same.’ So we emailed her, and she happened to be his partner, and she led us to Thomas, which is like it was meant to be. Because we were literally sweating.” 

Scafaria’s favorite musical moment of the film, though, is when R&B singer Usher arrives at the strip club. 

“On set that was a dream. That was the chance to see all the girls up onstage together. It felt like a bit of a renaissance painting. That was one where I was standing there kind of pinching myself that it actually we had pulled it off,” she says.

Credits

Host:
Larry Perel

Producer:
Cerise Castle