Actor Terrance Howard, right, shows Tribune writer Tony Jones, left, the honorary Peabody Duckmaster walking stick given to him on his visit to Memphis.

By Tony Jones

 MEMPHIS, TN — ​A-List movie and television star Terrence Howard’s returned to the scene of his prime last week to launch his new film, Showdown at the Grand, was a love fest for the city.

​Saying he was “born again” when he came to Memphis 18 years ago to portray DJay in the now classic Memphis-based Hustle and Flow, the new film’s premiere Wednesday Nov. 8 at the Malco Powerhouse. It served as a fundraiser for the Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission Foundation dubbed “Tales & Tunes with Terrence,” featuring Howard playing piano and guitar in an open forum with the audience, the event was produced by film commission board members Gayle Jones Carson and Tajuan Stout-Mitchell,  (calling themselves A Colored Girls Production). It was to increase funding to support more workshops to grow the number of trained professionals for the city’s simmering film industry. 

Howard said he was excited about the project because it also served a dual purpose to promote his personal crusade to get people to start going back to movie theaters. Showdown at the Grand is based on that premise. Co-produced by his wife Mira Pak Howard, he plays the owner of a withering theater waging a war to keep from being pushed out. 

“It’s more of a movement than a movie,” he told one outlet. “Why is it that the theaters have sat empty throughout COVID-19,” and now that the nation has recovered, “why (are there) no graduations there, no political debates; why are we not supporting the center of our community which is the theater? That’s what we’re doing with Malco Theaters.” To bolster the point, he led a meet and greet at the Summer Quartet Drive (the film was also shown at the Paradiso).

Howard’s visit included a stop at world famous Royal Studios to film a promotion for the Memphis Grizzlies reprising Hustle and Flow’s famous “Whoop that trick” chorus line that is the team’s heartily adopted fight song. Happily showing off a souvenir walking stick he was given as an honorary duck master at the Peabody Hotel, the stop at Royal continued the fun of his visit back “home”. Happily posing for endless souvenir photos, the studio is also a second artistic home for him. An adept musician and singer, he came to Royal to record Walk Away for the soundtrack of Take Me To The River a documentary co-produced by Royal’s CEO Lawrence (Boo) Mitchell. 

The moment that showed how Memphis has sunk into his spirit is when he told Live At 9’s Alex Coleman a few things straight from the hip. “I didn’t make but $12,000 from Hustle and Flow,” he said. And his performance on the soundtrack was credited to his character in the film. It was a huge smash, earning an Academy Award for Best Original Song for title track It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp. “So now, I’ve got to send them a letter to say, ‘Hey, you guys owe me about 20 years worth of residuals and performance royalties.”

He earned even less for Best Picture Academy Award Winner Crash, The alleged sharecropper type deal and drive to refill movie theaters led to wife Mira’s creating, a website to allow potential actors to film their own auditions that can be seen directly by producers and directors seeking talent.