The hilarious new buddy comedy Ride Along shows what can happen when a fast-talking guy wants the blessing of his hot-tempered girlfriend’s brother, before asking her to marry him. Thinking he’s found the perfect solution to get rid of high school security guard Ben Barber (Kevin Hart), Atlanta PD Detective James Payton (Ice Cube) insists that he accompany him on a ride along that he must survive, in order to prove that he’s worthy of Angela (Tika Sumpter), but what ensues are a series of wild adventures that lead them straight to the most notorious criminal in the city.
At the film’s press day, Ice Cube spoke to Collider for this exclusive interview about giving their own voice to the classic buddy comedy, finding the right comedy pairing, working with director Tim Story, his comedy niche, how he manages not to break during really funny takes, his favorite action sequence to shoot, and that he hopes this will be a franchise. He also talked about realizing what a big hit 21 Jump Street was, beefing up his role for the sequel, just how much crazier 22 Jump Street is, what fans can expect from his upcoming album Everythang’s Corrupt (due out May 13th), and where things are at with the N.W.A. movie. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
ICE CUBE: To me, in a perfect world, you have the flavor and the magic of movies like 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon and Bad Boys. Those are some classic comedies in recent years. And I knew we had a movie that had the potential to be that, but we still had to find our own voice and not copy what worked for those movies. We had to find the movie that would give this new audience that old feel. That was more important than to copy what they did. We wanted to bring it up to date and give people that experience that I got when I watched 48 Hours, for the first time. Our angle is that we’re not really partners. We’re trying to be partners, throughout the movie. It’s a different take on it, with the gaming aspect of it. There are all different angles that are more up to date.
The key to success of a film like this is the chemistry between the leads.
CUBE: Yeah, it really hinges on that.
How did you come to Kevin Hart, as the perfect pairing?
CUBE: We’ve been talking about this movie for a long time. We were thinking about who could play opposite me. We were thinking that maybe we should look for a white comedian to just give it a different flavor, but nobody felt like they worked. It felt forced. Then, the project went away for a minute. And then, it got rejuvenated and re-energized once Tim Story showed interest, and he has a great relationship with Kevin. It all started falling together, and I could really see the movie. I could see me and Kevin working together.
Does it really work to your advantage that you both had a previous relationship with your director?
CUBE: Yeah. I had done Barbershop with Tim Story, and he’s come a long way since then. That was his first movie. He’s done great work, and I trust him a lot. I feel like I’m in great hands with him. And the fact that he’s worked with Kevin before meant that there was no getting to know you time period. They’re good friends. It’s just cool to have that vibe, and to work with people that you know are going to give 110%, and everybody’s a pro and everybody’s good. That’s so comfortable.
Are you at a point where comedy improv comes easily for you, or is it always a challenge to have things thrown at you and have to react to them?
CUBE: I just think that’s my niche. It’s gotten easier and easier, over the years, but I think that’s just me, anyway, in a lot of ways. I’m able to counter. I’m a good counter comedian. I can just work it off with looks, or have something crazy to say back. That works for me. It seems like there would be a long line of straight men in the world, compared to comedians, but it’s something you have to embrace. You can easily feel like you’re losing the scene, or you’re not holding up your part of the bargain in the scene. You also can’t be too funny and cancel out the great comedian you’re playing with. If I support what he does, it in turn supports what I do.
A lot of your comedy comes from not breaking in your reactions to who you’re working with. Working with someone as crazy as Kevin Hart, did you ever have moments where you broke?
CUBE: Nah! I haven’t broke in awhile. I think it comes from me having the producer hat for so long. Film used to cost. It wasn’t just digital. I wanna get it right. If there’s something real funny and I laugh, we can’t use that take. You can really mess up something that’s special. To me, it’s my job not to laugh, no matter what’s said. I have to just be ready for anything, and absolutely anything with Kevin Hart.
What’s the last time something did make you break?
CUBE: It might happen more at a rehearsal, where I feel like it’s loose. But by the time we shoot, I’m ready for all that’s coming. I probably do most of my breaking in rehearsals, when I know that I can.
You filmed a lot of this on the streets of Atlanta. Did you have a lot of crowds standing around, and were there any crazy experiences with your fans?
CUBE: Nah, they behaved themselves. Dealing with some of the crackheads around the Underground in Atlanta was a little hairy. But all you get are people yelling, “Yo, Cube, what’s up?!” They’ll scream and want an autograph, but it’s nothing crazy.
You got to do some awesome action sequences and stunts in this. Was there anything you were most excited about?
CUBE: The stuff in the red Dodge truck. I couldn’t wait to see that cut up. We filmed that after the movie was over because we wanted to build the action a little more. I just saw all the bells and whistles and I couldn’t wait to see that cut together.
There was a lot of laughter from the audience in the theater, which makes it seem like a sequel could easily happen. Are you hoping to do more films with these characters?
CUBE: Oh, yeah! We hope that this can stand on its own two feet, as a franchise. Hopefully, if we have the weekend that we want, then we can jump into production on Pt. 2, right away.
21 Jump Street became a huge success.
When did you realize that it was getting the response that it did?
CUBE: Going to the press screenings and doing Q&As after some of the screenings, for audiences all around the country. I could just feel how excited the youngsters were. They just went overboard. They were very excited about the movie, so I knew that it was wacky enough and cool enough to catch on. And it caught on, in a major way.
How quickly did you hear about the sequel moving forward, and was it an immediate yes from you?
CUBE: I always want to read the script before I totally commit. But, it was pretty clear that they wanted me to be a part of the sequel, and they wanted to beef up my role. You can’t be mad at that. I told them to pencil me in and let me check it out.
How did making the sequel compare to doing the first film?
CUBE: It’s a lot crazier! If you give Phil Lord and Chris Miller more money, then they come up with more crazy stuff. We shot a lot of crazy shit. We had fun. We were able to improv as much as we wanted. We were getting nice, juicy takes of all kinds of crazy stuff. You could damn near cut two movies together.
A lot of actors jump from project to project, but you seem to be a lot more selective. So, what it is that attracts you to a project and gets you to sign on?
CUBE: Whether I could make the project stronger, if my presence will make it better, or if we’re working with good people and a good studio and a good director. Those things have to be up to par. You have to resist falling in love with the money they want to give you. You have to really resist that, and you have to just think about the work and whether it’s a movie that you would want to see. There’s all kinds of factors and timing. At this point in my career, I think a little less is more. I’m a little more selective and try to hit a home run, every time a ball come down the pike.
Do you often find yourself tempted by the money and have to talk yourself out of taking whatever the project is that’s offering it to you?
CUBE: Yeah, throughout my whole career. The money is always tempting.
How have you changed, as an actor, over the years?
CUBE: I feel like I’ve gotten more comfortable with the process, over the years. I understand what it takes. I would like to expand, a little more. I think it’s time to challenge myself, a little more, on film. But, I’m not gonna do a bad movie, just to challenge myself. It’s really all about everything happening in due time, and in the right circumstances and with the right timing. I’m looking forward to taking more changes, in the future.
Are there some directors that you’d love to collaborate with on projects?
CUBE: I love the Hughes brothers. I love the Coen brothers. I’d love to work with the Scorseses of the world. I wouldn’t mind getting into another John Singleton movie. There are some good people out there, doing some great work.
When you wrote “Fuck tha Police,” could you ever have imagined that you’d find so much success playing cops in movies?
CUBE: I think “Fuck tha Police” is reality. It’s a whole different angle. As kids, we play cops and robbers, and I was a cop sometimes. It’s acting. It’s fun. It’s Hollywood. Hollywood has always done a lot of cop movies and shows. It’s just the business I’m in. I don’t really compare the two, in any kind of way. One of them is rap music, protesting police brutality and authority taking advantage of their situation, compared to a movie. One of them is very serious, and one of them is very light. I would hinder myself if I let that stuff stop me. I’m not going to typecast myself.
What can fans expect from your next album, Everythang’s Corrupt?
CUBE: It’s vintage Ice Cube. I talk shit and I have fun. I tried to be very creative, as a lyricist. To me, it’s a good record. It’s got political overtones to it, but it’s also got street overtones. It’s just a good, solid Ice Cube record.
What’s the status of the N.W.A. movie?
CUBE: We start casting [this month], and hopefully we’ll be shooting 12 weeks after that. It’s crazy! It’s wild! That’s something I never dreamed of, but here we are.
Ride Along opens in theaters on January 17th.