Allen works with the actors. Albert works behind the camera.
But Allen has opinions on the camera and Albert has opinions on the actors, and both have opinions on the script.
Do they fight?
"All the time," says Chris Tucker, one of the co-stars of "Dead Presidents." "About everything."
And so it is, somehow, that Allen and Albert Hughes, brothers and twins, get their films made, squabbling all the time, falling over each other and into each other's faces.
"We really fought over wardrobe," says Allen.
"That was a classic fight," recalls Albert. No confusion. They're not identical. One has a little longer nose. It's not like seeing double.
The Hughes twins, working so passionately entwined that their screen credit mentions only "The Hughes Brothers," astonished the world two years back with a tough yet lyrical look at the culture of inner city homicide called "Menace II Society." Coming on the heels of such films as "Boyz n' the Hood," and "Straight Outta Brooklyn," it immediately impressed critics as being surer, tighter, more professional and more dynamic than its predecessors. It also made more money, an astounding development for a work so late in the cycle.
That its makers were only 20 at the time and were not street-hardened vets of the world they portrayed, but suburbanites from Detroit who had been given a movie camera for their 12th birthday by their mother, was another astonishment. Note to Mom: That camera? Excellent gift!
Now they're back with the profoundly ambitious "Dead Presidents," which tracks the destiny of a young man from senior year in high school through a long pull in the Marine Corps and several stopovers in Vietnam, through to a final tragic involvement in an armed robbery. "After 'Menace,' " recalls Allen Hughes, "we got lots of offers. But one story caught our eyes. It was in Wallace Terry's book 'Bloods,' about black soldiers in Vietnam. And it was the story of one of them who got involved in an armored car heist."
That tale is the genesis of "Dead Presidents," a script for which the Hugheses commissioned Michael Henry Brown, who'd written "Laurel Avenue" on HBO.
"It's not like we always wanted to make a war movie," says Albert, "it's just that the story was so good. We had some decisions to make. We wanted to make the story more personal and we wanted a tight unit. And we wanted to show something that hadn't been seen before."
That's how they ended up with a Marine recon unit off on its lonesome on unspecified but violent missions behind enemy lines. But the authenticity is terrific: it shows the research and the interviewing they did and their use of former Marine Capt. Dale Dye, who runs a Hollywood consulting service and has assisted, among many others, Oliver Stone in military matters.
But they didn't get to the Vietnam sequences, which were shot in Florida, until after the long shoot in New York putting together the film's dramatic heist.
"We almost had nervous breakdowns," says Allen. "It was poorly planned, and we sort of tippy-toed into it. We were both extremely worried, but somehow it all came together."
What they really enjoyed -- almost a surprise to themselves -- were the more intimate scenes between friends, and particularly between men and women, such as between hero Larenz Tate and his movie girlfriend, Rose Jackson.
"That was cool," says Allen. "Everybody was really relaxed. It felt good to do."