INT: Ice Cube
Few people could get away with calling superproducer Neal Moritz (FAST AND THE FURIOUS, STEALTH, SWAT, etc.) a "motherf***er" but Ice Cube is definitely one of those people. If Cube called you a m-effer and gave you that signature scowl, would you argue? Not me. I'd say, "Yes sir, Mr. Cube, sir. I'm a m-effer. Yes sir..." I got to sit down with Cube, a guy whose rhymes I've been bobbing my white head to since NWA, to discuss his upcoming role in XXX2, the business of rappers become actors and about how Mr. Moritz is a "motherf***er." Read on you crazy diamond:Was there any trepidation on your part stepping into the shoes of Vin Diesel? Not at all. I always felt that it was a great opportunity no matter how we had to pull it off. I really didn't want to play him, his character, so to speak. So we came up with the concept of flipping it and changing it and letting it be a new XXX each time, even though I knew that that would kind of cut me off after this one movie. Possibly… Possibly? Possibly…You know if it's successful then I’m going to get the phone call, “You know what? We want you to be in the next one.” [Laughs] So I just knew that that was fresh and it could work and I knew that I could make it my movie once we did that and everybody kind of bought into that’s how we should do it. So I never felt any reservations about doing this movie. There were so many great one-liners in the film. Did you improv any of those moments on set? A little bit. We were always looking for places to lighten him up a little bit. Because he's kind of got an attitude and has been sitting in jail for all this time and hasn't had any contact with anyone and now he's kind of out on this mission. So it was almost in some place like there was no room for humor. So we had to figure out where it would be appropriate to have this guy open up a little bit. The more we got into it the more we found places to put it in there and when they cut the movie together it just seemed like a nice balance between hard action that you really want, but also the relief of an action comedy popcorn type movie. What was your favorite catch phrase? Besides, “You should've killed that bitch?” Was that your line? Nah. That was the writer's [Simon Kinberg] actually. He had that in there. It’s been a historic year for black box office and you’ve been instrumental in that. To what do you attribute that success? Yeah….The audience through DVDs have shown the industry that it really doesn't matter what color you are. People want to see good entertainment. Before, they could only judge you at the box office, but when they see DVD sales and people showing that they just want to see good entertainment no matter where it comes from, that gives the industry courage to put us in these roles and know that if we do a good job and have a good movie, people are going to come out and not care what color we are. We've been fighting to get to a position like this. So to have COACH CARTER come out and go number one and ARE WE THERE YET go number one and HITCH go number one and even DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN go number one. It really shows that what we've been saying for all these years in all of these meetings is true. If you serve a good product the audience will come.
Do you look for roles or movies that are race-specific? Not really. You know, each role is different of course, but this role really has no color. It's not like I'm looking to play parts like that. I'll definitely go back and do a movie like a BARBERSHOP or kind of what I call Hood Classics, Neighborhood Classics like a BARBERSHOP or even a FRIDAY movie because I like those kinds of movies. I'm not kind of going to get on this roll of there being certain movies I won't accept now that I'm at a certain level. I'm going to do movies wherever I find them if they're good and I think that I can make them better. I’m gonna jump in there. Are you involved at all with the “Barbershop” TV series on Showtime? I'm lightly involved. That's pretty much an MGM thing. They're running with that. I feel like I'm in the movie game and if I do too much TV or stuff like that it's just going to distract me and take away from what I'm doing. To me, there's plenty of time for that. How different is it preparing for a film like ARE WE THERE YET compared to XXX2? Well, when I found out that they wanted me to do XXX and that it was going to be the real deal I started training when I was on ARE WE THERE YET. So everyday after we'd shoot I'd go down into the hotel gym and train for hour or an hour and a half or as much as I could get in. So I had it in the back of my mind, but I didn't really think about XXX until I finished ARE WE THERE YET. The only thing that I did was just worked out. I'm kind of glad that I did because I needed some of that even shooting ARE WE THERE YET because that movie was physical too. So I was glad that I got a jump on XXX but I wasn't really tripping on it. I was glad that I had XXX coming because I knew that my fans or people who are into my career would think that I'm about to flip and try to be Eddie Murphy and do these kids movies. So this was way to say, “Okay. The first one was something for the kids and this is something for the big kids.” Did you have any input into how some of the scenes and stunts played out? It was a great collaboration. Lee [Tamahori] was real receptive of our ideas and the script was good and I think that it was just a mixture of all kinds of things. It was a mixture of the script being good. Lee, the director, being receptive and us saying, “This is cooler than that.” It all came together as a good collaboration because sometimes you can have directors who don't want to hear what you have to say at all. But we had a good working relationship and so it worked out. Are you going to make a return to the hardcore rap game anytime soon? You miss the ultra hardcore? You know, I still do hardcore music. I'll talk about what I see fit at the time. I don't really like repeating myself, but this new record that I'm working on to me has elements of the old hip-hop, the old stuff that I used to do.
Do you feel rap has gotten any softer since you were in the game? No. It's just more accepted. I don't know if it's gotten soft. It's just more accepted. The focus is not on the political change, but more partying. So I think that's what has softened up. The political aspect of us trying to become better through the music or trying to explain our position on certain policies that the government had. That’s changed. What are the challenges of balancing your career and having a family? As far as my business I rarely take a meeting after six o'clock. If it doesn't happen before six it can happen the next day. So that right there keeps me home at the time when your kids need you for homework or just to talk and it doesn't keep me out in the streets until eleven, twelve, one o'clock and then you get up the next morning and leave at nine and you don't even know who your family is. I chose early in my career to have business hours and it's worked out for me. I haven't had a strain on my relationship, my family, or even my music or anything. I just kind of keep it to that. I have a lot of free time. I do. I have a lot of free time. People don't realize it, but I do. I'm bored sometimes [laughs]. Do you think that history will treat people like Tupac kindly? Hopefully it'll treat him like it treats all great poets. Wasn't Edgar Allen Poe like that…You have people who grew up on that kind of poetry and that made him an icon, and you have people who grew up on this kind of poetry and making Tupac and Biggie those same kinds of icons. What we have to see is if it will translate from generation to generation. There are singers that we look at as some of the greatest and that translates from generation to generation like a Marvin Gaye. So only history will tell. But I hope so I think that he's one of the greatest.
What advice did you give to your co-star Xzibit who’s working on his acting career? I just told him that each movie you do is your audition for your next one. So take it seriously. Each day you can give a better performance, each day that you step onto the scene. So stay focused. There are only a few months that you have to stay focus on this one thing, but if you nail it you can set a career for yourself. I think that he's got a future in it. I think that he's got a new movie already lined up, a football movie [GRIDIRON GANG with The Rock]. So I think that he's going to be kind of like the new up and coming guy who jumps in line with me, Will [Smith] and Queen Latifah and kind of gets up there because his head is right. What do you want audiences to take away from this movie? I want them to forget about the first one after they say this [laughs]. I want them to say, “Vin who?” Nah… I just want them to believe that we delivered on what XXX was, the brand that it is. I just wanted to deliver on it and give people exactly what they expected out of a movie. Are you trying to find something a bit smaller film wise now and what else is coming up for you? Size kinda don't matter. It really matters in the people that I'm working with and the script and what it's all about. We've got a few things in development, in the mix. I don't really like to talk about them until I know that they're going to be made. Is the FRIDAY franchise still around? Yeah. Man that's starting to rekindle. Every time that I put it to bed people start asking about it. [Mike] Epps is asking about it. John Witherspoon wants to do another one. When you get those people excited you start to say “Hey there’s a possibility.” Would Chris Tucker ever return to that franchise? Tucker? He don’t want to do it. What did you learn while filming TORQUE that you were able to apply to the filming of XXX2? Neal Moritz is a motherfucker [laughs].