Much has already been made of the way F. Gary Gray’s N.W.A. biopic Straight Outta Compton elides some of the group’s less admirable aspects—especially its members’ relationships and sometimes violent actions toward women. Most prominently, music journalist Dee Barnes, who was assaulted by Dr. Dre in 1991, posted her own review of the movie on Gawker, calling out the film for the way it ignores violence against both herself, and other women who operated in N.W.A.’s orbit. It’s interesting, then, to note that Barnes only called for her attack to be acknowledged in the film, not graphically depicted, in light of a Los Angeles Times article published today that shows that the altercation was originally included in Straight Outta Compton’s script.
Looking over an earlier draft of Jonathan Herman’s screenplay, Times reporter Gerrick D. Kennedy describes the scene like this:
The fictional Dre, “eyes glazed, drunk, with an edge of nastiness, contempt” (per noted from the script) spots Barnes at the party and approaches her.
“Saw that [expletive] you did with Cube. Really had you under his spell, huh? Ate up everything he said. Let him diss us. Sell us out.”
“I just let him tell his story,” Barnes’ character retorts, “That’s what I do. It’s my job.”
“I thought we were cool, you and me,” Dre fires back. “But you don’t give a [expletive]. You just wanna laugh at N.W.A, make us all look like fools.”
The conversation escalates, Barnes throws her drink in Dre’s face before he attacks her “flinging her around like a rag-doll, while she screams, cries, begs for him to stop.”
Dre, who settled out of court with Barnes after being convicted of assault, has expressed some remorse for his past behavior, telling Rolling Stone, “I was young, stupid. I would say all the allegations aren’t true—some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back.” (He didn’t specifically cite the attack on Barnes.)
Meanwhile, Gray, the film’s director, was challenged over the omission during a panel last week to promote the film, with the questioner praising the movie’s authenticity before pointing out that skipping over the attack weakened that aspect of the film. Gray responded that his goal with the movie was to focus on its protagonists’ narrative, and not get distracted with “side stories,” likes Barnes’ assault or some of the group’s internecine squabbles. “You could make five different N.W.A movies,” Gray said, pointing out that the original script was 150 pages, and the initial cut was three-and-a-half hours long. “We made the one we wanted to make.”