Pam Grier looks back on blaxploitation: ‘At the time some people were horrified’

June 04, 2010 | 4:47 p.m.


Pam Grier will appear Saturday at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood to sign copies of her new memoir Foxy: My Life in Three Acts and a screening of “Foxy Brown” and Jackie Brown,” but the 61-year-old star doesn’t dwell too much on her screen past. She is too busy with her hectic life, which includes philanthropic ventures and a variety of projects, including a co-starring role in an upcoming Tom Hanks movie and her recent work in the romantic comedy “Just Wright.” With films such as “Coffy,” Foxy Brown and “Sheba Baby,” Grier became the queen of blaxploitation films and, with the echoes of pop culture, a touchstone figure for the hip-hop generation. Quentin Tarantino revived her star power when he featured her in 1997’s “Jackie Brown” and her memoir reveals new layers to her Hollywood story — including stormy romances with Richard Pryor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Freddie Prinze and her ongoing battle with cancer. Greg Braxton, who writes for the Los Angeles Times Calendar section, caught up with Grier for five questions.

Pam Grier 

GB: How are you feeling? You describe your fight with cancer in the book.

PG: I’m in remission since 1988, but every day is a gift. The cancer can come back at any time. But my spirituality is so optimistic. People really respond to my outward appearance, and I’m really diligent about rest and exercise…. I am excited about life and live each day to the fullest. So many people have opened doors for me. I wrote the book because I felt I had an opportunity to inspire people

Foxy Brown GB: What is the question that fans ask you most often during your appearances?

PG: Men will ask me about my relationships with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and with Richard Pryor.  Kareem and I are still friends, and to this day, if he ever needed me, I would be there. I’m also asked about my skin care, my health and my confidence.

GB: How do you reflect on films like “Coffy” or “Foxy Brown”? And do you have a favorite among them?

PG: I rarely watch them. I don’t have the time because I’m doing so many other things — writing a screenplay, writing this book, working on my charities. I don’t really have time to revisit my past work. If I do, I always notice the novice actor I was then, and compare it to the more accomplished actress I am today. Which is my favorite film? That would be like saying which one of my children is my favorite. There are unique points I love in all of them. “Jackie Brown” would have the most points. It meant so much that Quentin Tarantino invested two years of his life to write a movie for me. It was a milestone in my life.

GB: At the time, blaxploitation films were very controversial, criticized for their violence and images. What do you think sparked a change in perception to the point that these films are now celebrated?

PG: They had a purpose. It was important for documenting what black people were doing. At the time, some people were horrified because they felt I was posturing as a man. But my rural background always included hunting and fishing. I was strong with firearms but proved I could also be feminine.

GB: What are you up to now?

PG:  I’m doing a movie “Larry Crowne,” which is written and directed by Tom Hanks. I play Julia Roberts’ best friend. It’s an incredible thrill to do it.

— Greg Braxton



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Photos: Top, Pam Grier in “Just Wright.” Credit: MCT; Bottom:, Beyonce in concert. Credit: Kevork Djansezian / Associated Press

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6 Responses to Pam Grier looks back on blaxploitation: ‘At the time some people were horrified’

  1. tarheelchief says:

    More people need to listen to Sinbad's reaction to Foxy Brown.It keeps her autobiography in perspective.
    Pam Grier was the Marilyn Monroe for many black men and women.

  2. mycopperdeuce says:

    Wow, Pam Grier playing second fiddle to Julia Roberts? Ridiculous. In a perfect world, it would be the other way around.

  3. Verballistic says:

    Much like the Afro haircut, the "blaxpoitation" movie was the early stages of establishing a black American identity…it may look corny or unhip now with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, but still played an important part in building an African-American culture.
    The increasingly large number of black actors & actresses should have the same sort of respect for these ground-breakers that black athletes have for pioneers like Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, etc.
    I daresay that even white directors like Quentin Tarantino have benefited and grown from films like "Jackie Brown" and such cross-cultural progress is clearly a good thing for the film industry.

  4. warriorpilot says:

    Yes, Julia Roberts can't begin to compare with Pam Grier. What a joke.

  5. century fox says:

    No ! julia cannot hold an candle to pam!,but sadly it's an white man's world,and julia is white,and an leading lady in hollywood!If it was an perfect ,color blind society,pam would still be number one even in 2012! pam i will alway's love you!be blessed!

  6. wesley studemire says:

    Ms Grier. You have been my idea of a beautiful woman for as long as I can think, when it comes to women of beauty. In my mind, you are a perfect example of what a beautiful woman is. God bless you and i hope that you get the chance to enjoy this holiday weekend in peace. One of your many fans Wesley

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