By Darlene Donloe
Several members of the cast and several film execs with the upcoming drama, Straight Outta Compton, recently held a press conference held at the Four Seasons Hotel to discuss the making of the film, set for release nationwide Aug. 14.
In attendance was the film’s Director F. Gary Gray, Producer Ice Cube, N.W.A. consultant and group member DJ Yella, O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays Ice Cube and also happens to be his real son; Jason Mitchell, who plays Eazy-E and Corey Hawkins, who plays Dr. Dre.
Straight Outta Compton (Universal) tells the story of the meteoric rise of N.W.A in the ‘80s and how the notorious group single-handedly changed the face of music.
Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren changed the game and upped the ante. Their musical fearlessness, fresh approach, creativity, rawness, defiance and talent made them legends.
(l-r) Corey Hawkins, Jason Mitchell, O'Shea Jackson Jr., F. Gary Gray, Ice Cube and DJ Yella
They used honest rhymes and hardcore beats to tell the story about life in their inner-city neighborhood. In the process, they made history. Their popularity and success took them out of that neighborhood and up to the big leagues and the deluxe apartment in the sky.
For this Q&A, each person is identified by their initials. F. Gary Gray (FGG), Ice Cube (IC), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (OJJ), Corey Hawkins (CH), Jason Mitchell (JM) and DJ Yella (DJY).
Q: Gary, how did you become involved with this film?
FGG: I’ve been involved for four years. I got the script from Cube. There was so much of a story there. I was a little nervous, but there was so much there.
N.W.A. (l-r) Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren
Q: How has this been for you, Cube?
IC: This has been a dream project for me. Ever since I’ve been producing it’s been in the back of my mind. There are only a few people I would ask to do this with me.
DJY: This was a great idea. 26 years ago we didn’t know it was a great story, but it is. We were about the music. We didn’t let anything stop us. 26 years later, the music is still fresh.
Q: How do you feel about making history?
IC: It’s amazing that after all this time the group provokes thought and controversy and energy like it did back then. We did a lot to change the texture of entertainment and opened it up for artists to truly be themselves.
Q: There are a number of scenes in the movie showing the group being harassed by police officers. Why so many?
IC: We wanted to show the humiliation we felt. We know cops have to be heavy handed with criminals, but not with citizens. Look, if somebody breaks into my house, I’m calling the damn police. I’m not calling the homies, Yella, or Dre.
Q: O’Shea what kind of research did you do to play your father? Did he tell you or show you what to do?
OJJ: Well, if you really want to be technical, I’ve been doing my research for 20+ years. There were certain things I did just to put me into that time period. I know solo Ice Cube. I know that guy. I had to learn how he acted with his friends. His lingo, you know the ‘you know what I’m saying.’ I would look at old videos and interviews.
Q: What did you tell him, Cube?
IC: I just wanted to give him all the ammunition he needed. You know, my perception of everybody, you know Jerry Heller, Dre, Ren and Yella. Because if he did adlib or go off script he would have ammunition. He would know how to be. I just had to fill him up with information. He developed into a good actor. I had confidence in him and Gary to deliver this film.
Q: Gary, how did you prepare the actors?
FGG: I don’t want to minimize what these guys did. I had these guys go in the gym, some had to lose weight, some had to gain weight. I had them actually record Straight Outta Compton, the whole album. I had these guys do so much in eight weeks. They worked around the clock with wardrobe and with trainers. They learned how to walk and talk and absorb the LA culture. They delivered a natural performance.
Q: Jason, you play Eazy-E. What was it like to play him?
JM: I feel like I hit the lottery. I can’t explain it. It’s emotional.
Q: What about you Corey? You’re playing Dr. Dre.
CH: Like Gary would say on the set, we are making history about a group that made history. It was a team effort.
Q: O’Shea, the same question?
OJJ: This is my family’s legacy. I’m happy the ball was in my hands. It was hard work. It was two years of auditioning with Gary.
Q: What would you tell those people who wanted to crucify the group 25 years ago?
FGG: See, I told you.
IC: You know, it’s a little apples and oranges. The music is moving at the speed of life. The movie is a piece of art. I can imagine you appreciate this movie and still have a problem with the group. That’s natural too. For those that came around, ‘welcome to 2016.’ We been looking for you every since 1989. It’s great. We’ve been doing films for 20 years. To be at this level and deliver a movie, shows me the different talent level and energy. Some will love the film, but hate the group. That’s fine. It’s all about being real. If you don’t like the group, you can kill yourself!
Q: Do you have any interest in a N.W.A. video game?
IC: Why not? They got Grand Theft Auto, that’s damn near the N.W.A. story. I guess they just gotta change the packaging. We can start getting some damn royalties.