Straight Outta Compton is entering its second weekend of release starting today, and most believe it will take the top spot at the box office once again. While the movie has been praised, there are still some critics question certain aspects that were left out of the story. The biggest omission on the part of the filmmakers, some feel, is Dr. Dre's infamous assault on journalist Dee Barnes, which many see as a low point in hip-hop history. Why was it left out of the movie? The Los Angeles Times has a new report that reveals this crucial moment was actually in the first draft of the screenplay, but was later cut due to length and time.
There are plenty of less pleasing moments that make up N.W.A's history as a rap group. There is Eazy-E's untimely death from AIDS, the struggles with controversial Death Row founder Marion 'Suge' Knight, and music that is lethally laced with homophobia and misogyny. But one of the uglier moments in this long and winding history is the well-known incident where Dr. Dre physically assaulted female hip-hop journalist Denise Barnes. Instead of waxing over the incident lightly, director F. Gary Gray and his writers decided to ignore the moment completely. The movie also skips over Dr. Dre's alleged violent against women.
Early drafts of the screenplay by Jonathan Herman actually did include the run-in. The scene finds the 'fictional' Dr. Dre spotting Barnes at a party. He approaches her with glazed, drunken eyes. He is filled with 'nastiness, contempt'. Here is a sample of the dialogue as it originally existed on the page.
"Saw that [expletive] you did with Cube. Really had you under his spell, huh? Ate up everything he said. Let him diss us. Sell us out. I thought we were cool, you and me...But you don't give a [expletive]. You just wanna laugh at N.W.A, make us all look like fools."
Dee tells the wavering Dr. Dre that she simply let Ice Cube tell his side of the story. That is her job. The conversation quickly escalates, with Dee eventually throwing her drink in the rapper's face. He then attacks her, throwing her around as she cries and screams for help. This is just one of many scenes that didn't make it into the film. And perhaps you can understand why. As it stood, the original screenplay was 150 pages. The final cut of the movie was shaved down from three and a half hours. An extended cut is expected to arrive on Blu-ray.
But some are still upset that this was the one moment chosen to be removed. Director F. Gary Gray was asked about its omission at a pre-release screening. He claims that a number of various narratives were left out of the finished film, because the entire team had decided they wanted to focus more on the group. There are quite a few other moments that didn't make it on screen. They include Dr. Dre getting shot four times in the leg, his house catching on fire during a wild pool party, and one particularly interesting jail scene. Also left one the cutting room floor was a violent flashback to the fight that claimed the life of Dr. Dre's brother.
Dee Barnes isn't happy about the omission. This past tuesday, she published an essay on Gawker titled 'Here's What's Missing From Straight Outta Compton: Me and the Other Women Dr. Dre Beat Up'. She calls the truth 'too ugly for general audiences', offering a horrifying account of events from her own point of view. She shares her views on the finished film, and criticizes it for being 'revisionist history'. Back in 1991, when the attack happened, Dr. Dre pleaded no contest and was only given probation. The journalist claims that she wouldn't have wanted to see the actual assault play out, but she wishes it had at least been mentioned or addressed during the film's lengthy runtime.
Dr. Dre isn't talking about the incident to the press, and Universal Picture, the studio behind Straight Outta Compton, have no comment. In her essay, Dee Barnes accuses director F. Gary Gray, who was the cameraman for her Ice Cube interview, of blacklisting her from this history as it now plays out. She also says he denied her a role in the 1996 drama Set It Off because Dr. Dre appeared in the film. Barnes eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. There are charges that she would drop the case if Dr. Dre helped advance her own hip-hop group.
The actual assault happened in 1991. It was during a record release party thrown in Los Angeles. At the time, Dee Barnes was the host of Fox's popular hip-hop show 'Pump It Up!' The following year she had featured Ice Cube, who had departed N.W.A over a financial dispute and went onto diss his former creative partners on air. About the incident, the journalist offers this recount.
"He picked me up by my hair and my ear and smashed my face and body into the wall. Next thing I know, I'm down on the ground and he's kicking me in the ribs and stamping on my fingers. I ran into the women's bathroom to hide, but he burst through the door and started bashing me in the back of the head."
Later in the press, N.W.A was quick to take credit for the encounter. Eazy-E even gleefully claimed that the 'bitch had it coming'. Other members also said she 'deserved' what she got for 'playing' them on national television. Months after the attack, Dr. Dre opened up about the assault to Rolling Stone.
"I just did it, you know. Ain't nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain't no big thing - I just threw her through a door."
While the film omits Dr. Dre's violence towards woman, he hasn't completely turned his back on the subject in the press. He has admitted that he's made some 'horrible mistakes' in his life, directly addressing his history with domestic abuse. He had this to say.
"I was young, ... stupid. I would say all the allegations aren't true - some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back," he said. "It was really [messed] up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there's no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again."
The initial report does not indicate that Dr. Dre's assault on Dee Barnes was filmed for the movie. So even though a longer cut of Straight Outta Compton is promised to be on the way before the end of the year, we still won't see this scene. What do you think? Should the assault have been included? Or is the story better off without it?