In the July 31 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine Dr. Dre and Ice Cube speak about the N.W.A. movie.
The interview discusses the process of how they chose the actions, what they wanted to achieve with the movie – especially how they want you to feel when leaving the movie theater – as well as about the day in January when Suge Knight turned up on the set and allegedly drove his pickup truck over two men.
The full interview – for which you can see some footage below – was part of a photo shoot that also included some of the actors who star in Straight Outta Compton — Corey Hawkins (young Dre), O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Cube) and Jason Mitchell (as Eazy-E).
Dr. Dre reflects on the differing attitudes to N.W.A’s music now vs then;
“It’s crazy how we were getting criticized for this years ago, and now, it’s just like, ‘OK, we understand.’ This movie will keep shining a light on the problem, especially because of all the situations that are happening in Ferguson and here in Los Angeles. It’s definitely going to keep this situation in people’s minds and make sure that everyone out there knows that this is a problem that keeps happening still today.”
Universal chief Donna Langley who was instrumental in the movie seeing the light of day and signing off the budget of $29 million [earlier this year Cube descibed her as having ‘big balls’] said;
“I’ve always been very intrigued by the [N.W.A] story, it was really just about finding a rational business model with which to greenlight it. I would argue that everybody knows hip-hop. There probably isn’t a culture in the world that doesn’t engage with [rap] in some way. We were looking through that lens, as opposed to handicapping it as an ‘urban’ film.”
The movie which has been discussed for over a decade has had countless script re-writes and various directors linked to it finally came to life once Cube collaborator and South Central native F. Gary Gray was hired to direct;
“I sat with Dre for hours, sometimes days, going over what happened,” says Gray. ” ‘Tell me the story again. Tell me who was there. Tell me why this happened and what were you thinking and what was your motivation and what do you think Eazy was thinking.’ I didn’t want people to watch the movie and feel like they didn’t learn anything beyond what they could find on Google.”
Ice Cube’s son, O’Shea Jackson Jr., who portrays his dad explains the process of shooting;
“My father would call me before each scene to let me know what he was thinking. A lot of it was getting me to not act. I have so much of his mannerisms and things already in me that I wouldn’t want to be onscreen doing an impersonation. You can do an impersonation or you could become the character. I really was trying to break down those acting walls and just let everything flow.”
The movie is packed with small but significant events of the N.W.A. rollercoaster and when test audiences were confused by Dre’s split with Death Row Records in 1996 – just two weeks before the movie had to be locked for its August release – Gray filmed a scene in which Dre walks into a room and witnesses Suge calmly smoking a cigar as he uses a vicious pit bull to terrorize a cowering man in his underwear. Dre recalls;
“I was like, ‘What the f— is going on?’ I was ready to leave anyways. This was the extra push. The guy in the underwear — all this shit actually happened.”
During shooting of the movie Suge Knight is alleged to have killed Terry Carter having run him over – as well as Cle “Bone” Sloan who was a ‘Straight Outta Compton’ adviser who survived. Suge faces murder charges and Dre laments it was “a really tragic incident” and explained;
“I was there. But I was just leaving, so I didn’t know what happened until I was halfway home, I heard about it over the phone. Everybody was supportive everywhere we went, and we didn’t have one issue throughout the entire filming of the movie. It’s crazy that this happened during the f—ing filming of the commercial. It’s just a really unfortunate incident, maybe [Knight] was looking for trouble. I don’t know.”
Cube, who wasn’t on the set, takes a more philosophical view;
“It’s the dangerous part of living in South Central, some people don’t care if you’re making a movie or not. It’s unfortunate because the movie is so good, so creative, so many talented people involved.”
“It’s just a really unfortunate incident,” says Dre. “Maybe [Knight] was looking for trouble. I don’t know.”
Finally Donna Langley told Hollywood Reporter that her studio is planning on doing something nobody in the rap world thought was possible — reuniting N.W.A for a European tour to promote the movie, with Eminem (who performs on the film’s soundtrack, along with Dre and Kendrick Lamar) sitting in as an honorary member.
“We don’t have anything settled yet with everyone’s schedules, but we think it can create a lot of buzz.”
Hollywood Reporter Video Interview Footage