There is plenty of drama and family turmoil in “White Boy Rick,” the new movie about Richard Wershe Jr.’s turbulent teenage years in Detroit as an FBI informant and drug dealer.
Some of that tension was echoed in real life after Thursday’s night red-carpet screening at the Emagine Novi for guests and contest winners.
Two of the real-life people who are major characters in the film came to the event. Wershe’s sister Dawn Scott and ex-convict Johnny Curry were there to see the movie for the first time.
Scott’s character, played by actress Bel Powley, is shown onscreen struggling with a drug problem. Curry’s character, portrayed by actor Jonathan Majors, is a drug boss who mentors Wershe, then grows suspicious of him.
The real Scott and Curry posed for photos with each other and “White Boy Rick” director Yann Demange before the screening.
It was after the movie ended that emotions ran high.
In the middle of a question-and-answer session led by WJBK-TV (Channel 2) entertainment reporter Lee Thomas and featuring “White Boy Rick” director Yann Demange and WDIV-TV (Channel 4) reporter Kevin Dietz, Scott became vocal after being approached by someone from the film’s event team.
“I am Rick’s sister. How dare you have your people come to me and ask me to be quiet!” she said loudly.
Scott expressed anger at not being contacted about the project. “You have not acknowledged me from day one,” she said to Demange.
Thomas tried to regain control of the discussion for several minutes, until eventually Scott moved to the lobby. She was followed by members of her party and several filmgoers who voiced agreement with her complaints.
Representatives for “White Boy Rick” were asked for comment about the incident, but have yet to reply.
Curry, who said he wasn’t contacted by the movie, remained until the end. He said the movie was “OK” but didn’t get his portrayal right.
More: Detroit’s 1980s drug crisis comes to big screen in ‘White Boy Rick’
“As far as my part, it wasn’t the real Johnny Curry,” he said. Curry attended with Rashard Cardon, a Detroit-area filmmaker, who said they’re working on developing a reality show that would feature Curry.
According to an Emagine Novi spokesperson, Scott left the multiplex voluntarily and was not asked to leave.
“White Boy Rick” stars acting newcomer Richie Merritt, 17, as the real-life Richard Wershe Jr. and Matthew McConaughey as his father. It tells the story of how Wershe became an FBI informant at 14 and was abandoned by authorities when he was given a life sentence at 17 for drug possession.
Wershe, now 49, was paroled in 2017 by the State of Michigan after spending about 30 years behind bars. He currently is serving time in Florida on a separate charge involving a stolen car scheme. He cooperated with the movie and met with several key members of the production, including Demange and producer Scott Franklin, who told the Free Press he still speaks to him a few times a week.
A few minutes before the q-and-a session’s interruption, Demange talked about the difficulty of taking on a feature film inspired by a real-life story. “You have a responsibility, a moral and ethical responsibility, because people are still alive” and Wershe remains in prison.
Before the movie, Scott said she was feeling “very emotional” at the prospect of seeing it. “It’s going to be very hard, seeing (portrayals of) my father and grandparents, who are deceased,” she said.
Many viewers gave “White Boy Rick” a good review after the screening. “It was a very entertaining film. I enjoyed it,” said Detroit screenwriter Toni Cunningham, who also gave the film, shot mostly in Cleveland, a thumbs up for visually matching Detroit.
“I think it was a good drama, very good casting, directing, music,” said Marjon Parham of Detroit. “I liked that it didn’t really focus on Detroit, but did a good job of telling a story that was based in Detroit.”
Shavon Edwards of Detroit said she left the post-film discussion because she didn’t think Scott was treated fairly: “I’m angry because … they didn’t listen to her, because this is her life.”
Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds: 313-222-6427 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘White Boy Rick’