N.W.A Biopic Director Explains Casting Criteria

"When you watch 'American Idol' and they have that 'It Factor' – there's a 'Hood Factor,'" F. Gary Gray says

MC Ren, Eazy E and Dr. Dre of N.W.A with Fab 5 Freddy
Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
MC Ren, Eazy E, Dr. Dre and Fab 5 Freddy of N.W.A.
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Director F. Gary Gray, who has helmed movies like Friday, The Italian Job and Be Cool, is currently casting five actors to portray the members of N.W.A for his biopic, Straight Outta Compton. A reporter for KCRW recently caught up with him at one of the castings, which have so far been held in Chicago, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington, D.C. and Gardena, California, to discuss what he has in mind for the film.

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Most important, Gray wants to make a movie that solidifies the band's cultural importance. "It's not unlike Social Network or American Graffiti where you take a place and time in America, especially as it relates to popular culture, and you see the shift, and they were right there and created part of the pivot that America took in entertainment," he said. "We went from Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince to hip-hop, and this is the time that marks that shift and that era."

He also discussed what he was looking for in the actors who will portray Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella and, if the crew's whole story is told, Arabian Prince. "Well it's just a certain thing that a person from the hood has," Gray said. "There are times where a thespian can get there and give it to you, sometimes they can't, and street credibility it's just that thing. When you watch American Idol and they have that 'It Factor' – there's a 'Hood Factor.' You get the authenticity when you're in an environment likes this, and you have an open call, and I've been seeing that, and I'm pretty happy with it." The movie's producers hope to begin shooting this summer and release the film next year.

News about the biopic first broke in 2009, when it was announced that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre would be producing the film along with Eazy-E's widow, Tomica Woods-Wright. The movie's IMDb page no longer lists Dre as a producer.