Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes (born April 1, 1972), known together professionally as the Hughes brothers, are American film directors, producers and screenwriters. The pair, who are twins, are known for co-directing such visceral, and often violent, movies as Menace II Society, From Hell and The Book of Eli.
The Hughes brothers were born in Detroit, Michigan to an African American father and an Armenian American mother, Aida, whose family were Iranian Armenians from Tehran. Albert is the older of the twins by nine minutes; although they originally believed themselves to be fraternal twins, they suspect they may be identical despite not having had a DNA test.Their parents divorced when they were two. The twins moved with their mother to Pomona, California, east of Los Angeles, when they were nine. The mother raised her sons alone while putting herself through school and starting her own business, a vocational center. Supportive of her sons’ ambitions as filmmakers, she gave them a video camera when they were twelve. As a result, the boys spent their free time making short films. When a teacher suggested that they make a “How To” film for an assignment, they complied with a short film entitled “How to Be a Burglar.”
After dropping out of high school, the twins began working on music videos as teenagers, directing for artists like Tone Loc and Tupac Shakur. Their first film, 1993’s Menace II Society premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Centering on black, disenfranchised youth, it was made on a budget of $3.5 million when they were only 20 years old. Not only did they co-direct the film, but they also wrote it with screenwriter Tyger Williams. It became a critical as well as a box office success and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature. Because of their previous experience in directing music videos, they became the first sibling duo since Jerry and David Zucker allowed a waiver by the Directors Guild of America to take co-credit as directors.
Their second film was Dead Presidents in 1995. Dealing with the black underclass society like their feature film debut, and also starring Larenz Tate, the film centered on war veterans during the racially charged Vietnam War era. The film, which was released at the New York Critics Film Festival, failed to make as much of a profit as their first film. They followed Dead Presidents with American Pimp, a feature-length documentary about the underground pimp culture and exploitation of women. It premiered at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival. They had originally set out to do an adaptation of Iceberg Slim’s novel Pimp, but someone else acquired the rights. The brothers have stated that the film’s perspective was partially shaped by being raised by their mother, who is a feminist, whereas some members of their family “dabbled” in the pimp lifestyle. In between projects, they filmed several anti-handgun public service announcements.
In a departure from their previous material, the Hughes brothers co-directed From Hell, the 2001 film adaptation of Alan Moore’s graphic novel of the same name about the Jack the Ripper murders in Victorian England, starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham. Considered too violent and gory by some critics, the film had to be edited in order to avoid an NC-17 rating by the MPAA. As described by the film’s star, there were sometimes disagreements between the twins regarding the direction of the film. For example, the amount of shown violence was a point of contention between the two; one brother thought that the brutality should be shown, while the other believed implied violence would suffice.
After From Hell, the brothers separated duties on their next projects, although they stayed in close proximity to one another. Allen directed a few episodes of the American version of the TV series Touching Evil (for which his brother was an executive producer) as well as the 2005 television feature Knights of the South Bronx. In 2005 it was announced that Albert would direct a feature film, called Art Con, without Allen, although no further news was reported on its development.
Their first film since 2001’s From Hell was the post-apocalyptic drama Book of Eli for Warner Bros., which was released in January 2010. They are attached to direct The Ice Man, a fact-based film about Richard Kuklinski, and a screen version of the classic TV series Kung Fu. It was announced in February 2010 that the brothers have been tapped to direct a live-action adaptation of the 1988 manga Akira.
As a team, Allen typically works with the actors while Albert handles the technical aspects of their films, stemming from Albert’s experience of taking classes at Los Angeles City College’s film school.
Known for their frank manner as much as their films, the Hughes Brothers have been known to get into altercations. They took the rap artist Tupac Shakur to court in 1994 after he assaulted them during a music video shoot. Shakur had originally been slated to star in Menace II Society, but was replaced after the incident which apparently stemmed from Shakur disliking the role they had chosen for him. He was later sentenced to fifteen days in jail for the assault as well as another incident which occurred a day before his sentencing.
The brothers have also made no secret of their use of marijuana, and have previously turned down the offer to do anti-marijuana commercials.
The brothers embrace their African-American and Armenian heritage. Albert has stated that although “People wanted to hear from us because we were black not because we were half Armenian,” he considers his artistic ability to come from the Armenian side of his family.
Allen has a son and Albert has a daughter.