14 Things We Learned About ‘Straight Outta Compton’
F. Gary Gray, the filmmaker behind new N.W.A biopic Straight Outta Compton, also directed 1995’s Friday, as well as the videos for Dr. Dre and Ice Cube‘s “Natural Born Killaz” and Cube’s “It Was a Good Day.” He grew up in South Central L.A., and has been friendly with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube for nearly 20 years. It’s hard to imagine anyone better suited for the Compton job — except maybe Boyz n the Hood director John Singleton, who was also a contender. But even Gray had real concerns about getting the story right. “I knew this was gonna be the most challenging film ever,” says Gray, 46. “And that if I didn’t nail it, it could be a career-ender. At every turn, there were multiple challenges that were daunting, from the start until the end. And I’m glad I did it. It was, no question, the most important movie I’ve ever done. But the execution had to be right in so many ways.”
In their interviews for Rolling Stone’s new N.W.A cover story, Gray, the surviving members of the group and the movie’s cast dove deep into the risky process of making Straight Outta Compton. Here’s some of what we learned:
1. The actors re-recorded N.W.A’s entire Straight Outta Compton album (with producer Harvey Mason Jr.) to help them get into character.
“I think Gary strategically had a timeline set up in his mind, in order to help us become a band of brothers,” says Jason Mitchell, who plays Eazy-E. “It was a real boot camp.”
2. Ice Cube always wanted his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., to play him in the movie, but Jackson nevertheless had to fight hard for the part.
“My pops brought the idea of the movie to me before there was a script,” says Jackson. “My first reaction was to let someone else get the role. Like, I hadn’t done any films. But then something clicked, where it was just, ‘Fuck that.’ I realized it would make me mad to see somebody else play him, so then the part became an obsession.” After a first, weak audition, Jackson spent nearly two years working with an acting coach, before going through multiple tryouts and finally getting the role. Then, in the weeks before the film, he had to drop 20 pounds in order to more closely resemble his dad: “Eating fucking leaves,” Jackson says with a laugh.
3. As a producer, Ice Cube was so determined to supervise the film that he visited the set via Skype while filming another movie, his 2014 comedy Ride Along.
“We were sitting on the set shooting a scene,” says Corey Hawkins, who plays Dr. Dre, “and Dre is there and everything, and I hear Cube’s voice. I turn around — he’s on a computer screen Skyping into the set. He’s like, ‘Turn me around.’ He was making sure that every single detail was good. Anything that they felt they were trying to, for lack of a better word, ‘movie-ize,’ they would nip it down.”
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