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Getting <i>Shaft</i>ed

Samuel L. Jackson put the brakes on Nicholas Cage's fast-driving car movie Gone in 60 Seconds this weekend, ousting it from the top spot at the box office.

Jackson's Shaft, a new version of the 1971 Richard Roundtree film of the same name, pulled in more than $21 million in its first weekend, according to Hollywood.com.

Screeching to a stop in second place was last week's champ Gone in 60 Seconds. Ticket sales were off 42 percent, down to an estimated $14.7 million.

The week's other major debuts turned out to be weak: The sci-fi cartoon Titan A.E. bowed in fifth place with an estimated $9.5 million; the latest Freddie Prinze Jr. romantic comedy, Boys and Girls, proved to be not so sexy in sixth place with an estimated $7 million.

In its third week, Martin Lawrence's Big Momma's House is still going strong in third place with a hefty $11.3 million. Mission: Impossible 2 with Tom Cruise, released a month ago, was in fourth place with $10.9 million and is on target to bring in $210 to $220 million, outgrossing the original which made $181 million.

Rounding out the top 10 were: Dinosaur in seventh place ($5.8 million); Gladiator in eighth place ($4.9 million); Shanghai Noon in ninth place ($3.6 million); and Road Trip in 10th place ($3.1 million).

Shaft, the shut-your-mouth detective with the hot temper - and the even hotter wardrobe - first hit the screen in 1971 with Richard Roundtree directed by Gordon Parks. The following year, the New York wise guy took on the mob in Shaft's Big Score and in 1973, the cool cat crossed continents for Shaft In Africa, directed by John Guillermain.

So how does Jackson's 2000 version of Shaft compare with the original's box-office success?

In 1971, the average cost of a movie ticket was $1.65, compared to $4.87 this year. That means the original Shaft's box office gross of $25 million would equal about $74 million today. According to industry projections, the new Shaft could outgross the original in just three days.

The original Shaft caught fire after its musical soundtrack went mainstream. And critics say the original has more romance, hipper fashion and better action scenes.

Still, Roundtree's version with strong acting and a decent plot did well, particularly with young males. It met the high end of expectations, which had been put at $18 to $22 million.

"The biggest challenge was just really to take the essential elements of what was cool about the original film and give it a contemporary flavor," says Singleton. "We knew we had to have a really great guy that we could put in fly clothes. So we had to get a major star and, in this case, we got Samuel Jackson."

In addition to Jackson, Singleton made sure he brought back the original man himself: Richard Roundtree,Early Show ontributor Laurie Hibberd reports.

"Richard established...something in that film," said Singleton. "He was the first black man to...do a movie...and have a moustache, to be so virile, and be so masculine…and sexy, and very, just like boom! You know what I mean? And that's why that film was such a huge, enormous hit."

Singleton first saw Shaft when he was 3 years old, and he has seen it many times since then. He was primarily inspired to make his own version of the film by Gordon Parks' direction of the original, as well as the classic soundtrack provided by Isaac Hayes.

"It was just something that was really organically a part of my life And then I guess I've just come to it as a filmmaker now," he explains, and few would argue that he is not the right man for the job.

"I'm 32 now. I've been directing for 10 years," notes Singleton. "I'm like a veteran, but it's just like I'm getting my groove on. I'm just now getting, like, focused on what I really want to do. And I'm just…happy to really have a career making films."

Singleton says he envisions Shaft as a project he can come back to every two years and have some fun. Up next for him is a sequel to Boyz N The Hood, titled Baby Boyz. It should be released next year, in time for the 10th anniversary of the original.

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