Ice Cube has had a unique career trajectory. He started out as a member of the seminal hip-hop group N.W.A. and now he’s a straight-man staple in a host of comedies including Barbershop, Are We There Yet?, and Friday. His latest is Ride Along, which casts him as James, a tough cop who takes along an aspiring officer (Kevin Hart) to see if the guy has the mettle to marry James’ sister (Tika Sumpter).
I visited the set last December, and during a group interview with Ice Cube, we talked about working with Hart, getting out of the way to let the professional comedians work their magic, drawing inspiration from Training Day and Midnight Run, playing the straight man, and more. Hit the jump to read the interview. Ride Along opens January 17, 2014.
ICE CUBE: Is that right? I could do a few zillion more. You know what I mean? It never gets old. Working with somebody like Kevin Hart is rejuvenating in a lot of ways. He’s such a pro. He’s so good. And Tim is a pro. When I got him he was a rookie, the first time I worked with him on Barbershop. So, it’s just cool to be in this position where everybody can kinda go into what-they-do-best mode, and deliver. And that’s what I think we’re doing: delivering.
You’ve worked with so many comedians in the past. What element does Kevin bring that differs from other comedians you’ve worked with in the past?
ICE CUBE: I think his brand of comedy is broader in a lot of ways. He reminds me of a young Eddie Murphy, when Eddie Murphy was sharp as a tack, and witty, and on time. And [Hart] can pull it all off. He can pull off the physical, he can pull off the intellectual, he can pull off the subtle, and it’s just cool to work with somebody so good. Not putting anything on the other guys, because Mike Epps is a genius, Witherspoon is incredible, Katt [Williams], are great comedians, even Terry Crews, who’s not a traditional comedian, but he’s just sharp in that way. But, I think this is everything you wanna see from Kevin Hart. If you’ve seen his standup, he’s a better actor than standup comedian. He can deliver on screen what he delivers on stage, and that’s just a great thing.
ICE CUBE: I try to make sure the comedy is funny, (laughs) and not just comedy. Me and him, we don’t force nothin’. We make sure we have a great script, so if it don’t land as funny, or funny as we thought it was gonna be, it don’t matter, we keep it movin’. And we’re not force feeding anything. I think it helps people to relax with it and laugh at it. It takes on its own tone and flavor. I allow these guys to get off. I don’t get in their way. I don’t cut their lines. I don’t leave their funny s**t on the edit floor like a lot of lead actors do. I’m not intimidated on getting scenes stolen from me, or none of that s**t. That s**t to me is small potatoes, it’s really all about the overall of what the movie is doing for the audience. Kat Williams’s part was this small when we first started the movie, the last Friday movie. So was Terry Crews’s. They just took it and ran with it, and you have to leave them in it. It’s funny, and the audience should see it. You don’t cut it just because you’re not the center of attention. I think that’s just the chance for these other guys to really shine, and I think it works for them. And they run with it, as far as going out on stage, going out on the road, touring, keeping the personas going. It’s just cool. They can take it and run with it.
Both Kevin and Tim have compared your guys’ chemistry to Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte on 48 Hours, and Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke in Training Day-
ICE CUBE: I’m better than Nick Nolte (everyone laughs). Better than Nick Nolte in 48 Hours, but, let’s keep going (laughs).
ICE CUBE: The fact that they were true to what they are. They were true to doing the hard stuff hard and making the funny stuff funny, without being wacky. So, with Training Day, our movie is ten times funnier than Training Day. I’m gonna let you know that, you know what I’m sayin’? (laughs). Yeah. Training Day is it’s own thing, but we took heart from that, and then, the funny we kind of created out of these situations. Now I gotta tiptoe, I gotta dance (everyone laughs). So, you borrow what’s good, but we was watching Midnight Run too. It’s a lot of great comedy, and it’s a lot of What About Bob? kinda stuff in this too, because Kevin is annoying, you know what I mean? You wanna just fly swat him, you know what I’m sayin’? ‘Cause he just knows how to take me from being the coolest cop in the room, to wanting to choke him. He gets you there. So, it’s a little bit out of all these movies, but better, because it’s all wrapped up into one.
Have you had any involvement dictatorially in this film, and if so, what?
ICE CUBE: Just addin’ my two cents in, ya know? I don’t need to mess with Tim. We’ve got a great DP. Will Packer is definitely doing a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to this movie. And, it’s just cool, because, I have a lot of responsibility in front of the camera, and that’s where I kinda wanna keep my focus, is in front of the camera. We beat out the scenes, but that’s about it. We haven’t been too out of line with the shots or anything, so, I haven’t really had to step in on that level, just really with the actors, beating it out and making sure that it flow right.
ICE CUBE: It’s just straight man, funny man stuff. You just stay in your lane. You get somebody that’s extremely talented, and just do the dance, and have fun, and make sure the set is lively. You guys are here on the action day, but usually, everybody’s runnin’ around here laughing, and Kevin is crackin’ jokes, f*****g with people all the time. I think that atmosphere spills onto the screen, and we havin’ a lot of fun. I believe we’ve done it again, and that’s a beautiful feelin’, even though we in the 4th quarter, we gotta finish strong. But, we got a lot of funny s**t in the can. A lot.
Could you see this being another franchise? Another Ride Along?
ICE CUBE: Hell yeah. It better be (laughs). If it’s not, we didn’t do a good job (laughs).
Here’s more from my Ride Along set visit: