INT: Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah / Gisele Bundchen / Jimmy Fallon
With a hot new album deemed by some critics as the years biggest surprise, starring roles in several anticipated movies, and an upcoming hosting gig on Saturday Night Live, Queen Latifah seems to be at the pinnacle of her career. She can take pride in knowing she is the first female rapper ever to be nominated for an Academy Award, even if the little golden guy ultimately went to her co-star. She is the perfect female counterpart to Sean P. Diddy Combs, with an impressive array of talents ranging from actress to rapper to entrepreneur to label owner, etc. The word Latifah means delicate and sensitive in Arabic, but she is a strong talented woman who could easily whoop everyones ass in the room, if she so desired (which lucky for us, she doesnt.)
In her new movie TAXI, Latifah accompanies Jimmy Fallon on a high-speed cat-and-mouse chase around Manhattan, searching for a posse of sexy supermodel bank robbers. She is a cab driver with an addiction to driving many levels above the permitted speed limit, which makes for some good laughs and a whole lot of ticket violations. Fallon plays the oblivious inept cop trying to regain his occupational dignity with the help of Latifah.
When she came into the room for the interview, she was dressed very nicely and oozed radiant self-confidence. She was pleased with her work on the film, and hoped it would do well with the movie-going public. Did people laugh their asses off? Thats what I need to know! she inquired. They sure did, even though its hard to say if its because the movie itself was funny, or people were wired and hyped up on concession stand snacks. Regardless, Latifah had a blast working on the movie and loved dealing with all of the cast and crew, and she loves you, her fans. Now thats what I call a U.N.I.T.Y.
Were you pleased with the final cut of the movie?
Oh, yeah! I loved the way it came out, and I loved the pacing. We had great chemistry together. I felt really good about my performance in it, and I dont always sit back and say Hmm, I really liked it. You know, its weird because I dont watch dailies and so I dont really know what it looks like until its done. So to get to see it all cut together, it was like, really good. It was funny, and it had good turns of seriousness and sarcasm and humor and action. There were a little continuity things that I was cool with.
Did you do any of your own stunts?
That was me driving in the beginning of the movie, having a nasty good time! (laughs). No, we had to use the stunt professionals. There are just certain things that out of my range, at the moment. But Im practicing, so for Taxi 2 Ill be doing a bit more.
Your character has a strong affinity for car racing. Do you?
I do. I actually have loved car racing all my life. Ill watch Nascar regularly, and drag racing, because we have a raceway park in New Jersey. My father was a cop and he just drove real fast, bottom line. He had a Jaguar XKE that flew like 160 mph. He took us on the highway called 78, in New Jersey, and took us up to about a buck 25, when I was like 5 or so. So I think he focused in on the need for speed pretty early in life. So yeah, this kind of stuff is natural for me, all in good fun.
Have you seen the original Taxi movies?
No. I will see them now, but I purposely didnt watch them, because I didnt want to take anything from them. We wanted to bang out the American version. So I figured, first of all, its a guy. Second of all, its France. Its Luc Besson, and its probably going to be completely different. So there may be some similarities and I dont want to kind of take from the character, Id rather us start new here. Now that Ive done it all, I can watch the first couple runs of them, and see what theyre like.
What was your main attraction to Taxi?
The attraction was initially because it was a Luc Besson movie. I get to change a guy to a girl, I get to drive, I get to ride a bike, I get a cute boyfriend, I get to have some fun, and I get to do some comedy. Im not a comedian, but its a big difference when you go to work and you laugh all day. It makes the work feel like play. So whats not to be happy about, when you get to go to work and do a job like that?
Which action-packed scenes were the most fun to watch while filming?
Some of the stuff I wasnt there for, since it literally took days to do. I would be off for some of those times since I was working on an album. You know the scene where they jump all of those cars and Jimmy puts the badge up? Its crazy, and you know, how they worked some of the jumps and the taxi hitting the breaks. Crashing my car into the hospital at the endthat was fun. The explosion! That was fun, when the Daewoo blew up. I got to run away from an exploding Daewoo-- never thought Id do that (laughs.)
Were you able to get through your takes without cracking up?
Well, what you see is what you get, buddy. Put it like thistheres an hour and 24 minutes of outtakes. I was like Man, we got a whole other movie, lets release that! No, I couldnt get through everything-- theres no way. It wasnt just me, it was the Ann Margret stuff. It was practically impossible for us to keep a straight face while she was doing her thing. She just got more and more into it. She was pinching his cheeks, and oh God, it was funny. It was just funny. Yeah, we wasted a whole bunch of Foxs money on film.
Did you guys do a lot of ad-libbing?
Yeah! There was plenty that was on the page, but we knew what was on the page already, so once we got it there, then it was whatever happens. Wherever it goes, just be ready to go there-- which can be fun you know, because you can do things to it. And thats what were hired for, were here to bring these characters to life, not just read whats on the page of the script. So I think that definitely was achieved.
Is there anything about working with Jimmy that annoys you?
It annoys me that I cant get a scene done! (laughs.) We were here for hours and hours and hours, and Im like, Do you want to go home? Then stop making me laugh, stop making me laugh, Jimmy! So, is there anything that completely annoys me about Jimmy? No. No, nothing. Its hard to annoy me. You got to be really annoying to annoy me, I give people a lot of leeway.
What do you admire about him?
I got to say I admire his work ethic. He really is a hard worker. He was doing Saturday Night Live at the same time as he was doing Taxi, so he was going to Saturday Night Live in Los Angeles for at least 2 months, shooting the rest of the movie. He was flying back and forth, hed be finishing on Friday, and then work on skits and then shoot on Saturday, and be right back on a plane working on Sunday. So he was doing a good Saturday-a-week schedule for like a couple months. And Ive done that before, when I did Set If Off, I did the same thing, having Living Single and an album out, so I know how grueling that can be and taxing on a person. So for me, seeing him really just work that hard and having that much on his plate, and still deliver on everything, I was proud of him. Thats the way you got to get down sometimes in this business, and I was happy that he made that adjustment.
What was the best part about working with Tim Story?
Tim is just cool, thats the best part about working with Tim. Hes cool, hes laid back, hes a pretty easygoing guy, so hes not like somebody you have to fight with all day. Hes also understanding, so we didnt have to really explain and explain or ask for things and have him not give them, over and over. He is a hard working guy as well, so he was there to fight the good fight and get it done as easily as possible. Weve actually known each other for a long time, so it was just a real comfortable atmosphere to work with, having him direct the movie. Im just real proud of him, and I wanted to help him out any way I could. My whole team was very accommodating to him and helpful to him-- whenever he needed a little pat on the back, a little encouragement, etc. You need that sometimes when youre doing these huge productions, even the smaller ones. Especially the smaller budget movies-- that will really kill you. But having all these legs to control on this thing can be really challenging, so I was just letting him know I was there, and he was cool.
Was it tough shooting the scenes in Manhattan?
It was extremely difficult shooting in Manhattan. I dont think it would normally be that difficult, but we had like a perfect storm problem at the time. The first day of rehearsal there was a blackout, of course, a fantastic blackout, just for us, to welcome us to Manhattan. When we were shooting the film, it was practically like the Republican National Convention or something. Everything was blocked off, shut down, and it was hard to get anywhere-- and mind you, we were moving a crew of like 150 people at least, so it was difficult but it was fun. It was definitely fun shooting here. It gave us a whole vibe of New York, shooting here in New York, when were shooting a movie thats about New York. Our pace and energy out here is just totally different from the rest of the country. Maybe cities like San Francisco can come close. But New York with all the buildings, all the people, all different kinds of people, we just move to a totally different pace and beat than everyone else in the country. We missed it when we had to go to Los Angeles, but we had to do what we had to do.
Are you making Bad Girls?
Well, the script is written, were working on it, and were trying to make it happen. Hopefully if Jada and my schedules pull together, well be shooting that early spring of next year.
Is it Bad Boys except with girls?
No. It will be in terms of the action, and the chemistry. We (Jada and I) just had such a good time on Set It Off. As far as Im concerned, Id just love to make a movie with her. She feels the same, so were just trying to make sure the script is right so we can go ahead and do it. Bad Girls is a good excuse for us to make a movie together.
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