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DOWN THE PIKE - Halle Wants To Know Who "Doris Payne" Is

This sounds like a real-life story that could make for a potentially riveting film, and a plump role for Halle, in the hands of the right director.

It's called Who Is Doris Payne, a Eunetta Boone-scripted, fact-based film about an international jewel thief whose career spanned five decades!

I googled "Doris Payne" and found an interesting piece on her at, dated November 2005.

In the article, the then 75-year old Payne (in the picture on the left) was serving a 2-year sentence in a Nevada jail, on charges that she stole a diamond ring from a Neiman Marcus store in Palo Alto, California, and sold it in Las Vegas.

Following her term in Nevada, she will be transferred to a prison in Denver, Colorado (where she currently is today) to serve a 4-year sentence for a similar crime elsewhere.

Reading over the MSNBC story, Payne seems to relish the questionable, yet likely thrilling life she led as a jewel thief, which led her to the life behind bars she is currently enduring. Certainly, she has some regrets; but, at 78 years old, she's seen the world, stealing from jewelers in places like Paris and Monte Carlo, and lived the kind of life many of us can only dream of, given how prolific a thief she was, stealing countless diamonds, costing tens-of-thousands of dollars each, and selling them for tidy sums.

What's even more fascinating about all this is that, despite her "creamy, mocha skin" as the MSNBC report put it, she is obviously a black woman, who somehow was able to smoothly and confidently, repeatedly steal very expensive pieces of jewelry from upscale establishments, at a time in our history when black people were already under intense, conspicuous "surveillance."

Reading between the lines of some of Doris Payne's statements, she will likely do it all again, if she could, showing no desire to bring an end to it all! Obviously, others can see that as well, which is why she's now serving successive sentences in different states, for her past sins, which will likely continue until her death.

She begun her "career" as an international diamond thief in her late teens. The impetus for it all? Partly to please and take care of her mother.

I'm reminded of a 2001 film called Lift, which starred Kerry Washington in a very similar role - an intelligent, young, African American woman who shoplifts from upscale, high-end department stores, mostly to please her very critical mother, illustrating the effects that materialism has on a dysfunctional family. The film was nominated for two 2002 Independent Spirit Awards, and received critical acclaim at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. It's not a great film, but its unique storyline and Washington's performance make it recommended viewing.

No word on when Who Is Doris Payne will go into production, when it will be released, nor who its director will be. But I'm guessing Halle, being already attached, will have a say in that decision... let's hope the choice is one we can all get excited about!

I suggest reading the MSNBC article HERE to familiarize yourself with Ms Payne's riveting story.



  1. Sergio said...

    I agree with you. This project will work only with the right director. To put my two cents in, I think Darnell Martin would be the right director for the job and she has directed Berry before in Their Eyes Were Watching God.

    Anybody else have any suggestions?

  2. Aziza said...

    I wonder what the tone of the script is. That will determine who will be the right director. This could play out in different ways. A dramedy, or a thriller, or even as an action movie.

    But no matter which way they go, I hope a female director is given the job, and hopefully an African American.

    What is sad is that I'm having difficulty thinking of names of black female directors right now.

  3. Barry Jenkins said...

    Sergio, PERFECT suggestion. I was Darnell's assistant on THEIR EYES and she and Halle got along great on that shoot. You're totally right, Darnell has what I'd call a very fluid, brawny directing style (I can't tell you how many people, to this day, think Darnell is a man because they've never met her...but of course claim to know HIM :)

    She loves to move the camera and would really take to something kinetic like this. I'm gonna give her a call tomorrow and see if I can't get her to take some never know.


  4. Sergio said...


    Glad to be of service.

    And tell Darnell when you speak to her that I though Cadillac Records was one of the best films that I saw last year

  5. Matty said...

    i'm with aziza... i want to know what the overall tone of the film is before picking the director... and yes it would be great if the person chosen is black and female... but i'm not as high on darnell martin as you guys are... she hasn't done anything to make me believe she can handle what could be a transcontinental heist movie... but it depends on what the focus is and in what direction the script flows... but i'm willing to give Darnell the shot...

  6. Sergio said...

    # Matty

    O.K. then who would you pick? Assuming of course we would all like a black director on this project who would you suggest? F. Gary Gray? Antoine Fuqua? George Tillman? Carl Franklin? Forget Spike or Singleton. They would no doubt blow it.

    Here's a wild card choice: Angela Robinson who directed Disney's Herbie Reloaded? How many people know she's black?

  7. The Obenson Report said...

    Darnell Martin is a good choice.

    I agree with Aziza and Matty that the director should preferably be black and female, if only to spread the wealth a bit; but I couldn't come up with many others, which is all the more reason why the job should go to one of a handful of AA female directors. They could use the exposure.

    So, going with that criteria, who's out there besides Martin? Gina Prince Blythewood, Kasi Lemmons, Neema Barnette, Cheryl Dunye, Angela Robinson... that's all I've got right now - of those I know have worked in the last few years.

    You know, maybe I'll post something about this - a listing of all the AA female directors and what each has/is working on.

    BTW, I hear that Columbian director, Patricia Cardoso, will be directing Halle in next year's Nappily Ever After.

  8. Matty said...

    sergio... i won't go with any of those guys... but you know it'll probably end up being one of them... hmmm angela robinson... i saw her first film (d.e.b.s.) which wasn't my cup of tea... but i don't think i was the target audience... i really don't know... if we're sticking to black female directors who else is there besides darnell martin and angela robinson... gina prince-bythewood, kasi lemmons, cheryl dunye... tough choices... i won't be surprised if the job went to somebody bigger who we least expect...

  9. Alan said...

    Neema Barnette was mentioned in the article, "Zine Gives Black Filmmakers A Platform." Please read it at

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