If you were to make a list of actors who were on the verge of breaking out in a big way, Kevin Hart would have to be on it. In some ways, he’s already broken out. His comedy special Let Me Explain was released in theaters. It cost $2.5 million to make. It grossed almost 13 times that. He’s not only a comedian that can put a comedy special in movie theaters (who else has done that recently?), but make them hits. Now he’s starring in an action comedy alongside Ice Cube in Ride Along. He plays a fast-talking aspiring police officer who must team up with his girlfriend’s brother, a hot-tempered cop (Ice Cube), to prove that he’s worthy of being her husband.
I visited the set last December, and during a group interview with Hart we talked how this movie compares with other buddy cop action movies, the differences between working on stage and on films, moving to a new phase in his career, and more. Hit the jump to check out the interview. Ride Along opens January 17, 2014.
KEVIN HART: Uh, that was the first gun I shot. No, I’ve shot guns before. I’ve had to do gun scenes in Fool’s Gold, years ago, so messing around with guns and I think they call them the blanks, is always. Simulating real opportunities, but the shotgun was hilarious. Really had kick to it.
What’s it been like shooting the fight scene today?
HART: You know, I mean, I’m working with Laurence Fishburne. It’s scary. You know, I feel like Tina Turner “What’s Love Got To Do With It” right now. He’s whooping my ass all day, but you know, it’s fun, man. At the end of the day you’re working with an established actor who’s done so much, and just to be there in that environment is huge for me, so whether it’s getting my ass kicked or doing lines with him, it’s an opportunity. I’m happy about it.
How is this, would you say, this film compares to other buddy cop action films?
HART: Well, first of all, this is a modernized version of what those movies were, and uh, I think now, in our time frame, you know, 2012, this type of movie is missing. You know what I mean? The last one that’s really been done — you gotta think about Rush Hour, you have Bad Boys, you have Money Talks. Martin [Lawrence] did a couple, like Blue Streak and stuff, but this one here, you know, I think it’s something that’s in demand. I think literally what me and [Ice] Cube have found is a way to do it and be funny, but at the same time, tell a real story, and not be too commercial with it, but make a comedy that is a comedy. We put a real aspect of action in it, but at the end of the day it’s a comedy, and the long term goal is to franchise it and do one, two, and three. I think we got something special on our hands. I’m excited.
HART: Of course, of course. It’s impossible not to think about what’s been done or who’s been in the realms of films like this before you. You think of Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs. You think of Martin in Bad Boys. You think Chris Tucker, and these guys all were all able to be themselves and put themselves in that fish out of water environment but be believable, but I think that’s what’s important when you do these films. It’s not about just being funny. It’s about being funny in a real life situation, so people can believe that you’re actually that guy. So for me, pulling from Murphy and Rock and all these guys that we just went through is definitely a huge aspect of acting.
Any scenes in particular that you’ve kind of pulled from?
HART: Well, there’s one scene in here where we’re at a strip club, and this is when I found out that he’s been basically setting me up. It’s not real. These fake events that he’s been taking me on that I thought were real are no longer real, so I take it upon myself to get him back. So I’m gonna go — since you wanna play, I’m gonna show you how to play — and the strip club scene, and that would be my 48 Hrs. moment where Eddie Murphy walks into the bar and is like, “There’s a new sheriff in town.” He puts the cowboy hat on, but it’s stepping outside the box and having that one scene that you know is gonna be a memorable scene. I would definitely say that I took pieces from that and said, “Okay. This is basically that. Let me adapt it and make it my own,” but along the same lines of what Eddie did in 48 Hrs.
Obviously, using 48 Hrs. as a metaphor, like Cube is the Nick Nolte and you’re the Eddie Murphy, how heightened can you get? Is there like, a line that you draw, or do you just go all out?
HART: Well for me, no, there’s definitely a line. Like I said, the thing you want to maintain is a sense of believability. You know, you don’t want to go too far to where it’s a cartoon, and to now you’re doing slapstick, and it’s oh God, it’s too far, it’s too much — or your eyes are just bulging, and it makes no sense. So for me there’s a fine line not to cross, and I think that’s where a lot of my comedy comes in, and I think that’s why my fan base has grown, because regardless of what I’m talking about, people believe it and you, “Okay, I can put myself in that situation and see how this would happen.” And working with Tim Story [director] and Will Packer [producer], I think we’ve done a great job of keeping me in that believable realm of acting, so I definitely don’t want to go too far, so we put limits on it.
HART: Well, first of all, I mean it’s… I’m trying to think of how to word this without sounding like an asshole.
Just say it!
HART: There’s no adjusting. I feel like whatever you’ve done in your career, good or bad, it’s nothing but preparation for the big events to come. So the reason why I am there’s no adjusting is because I’m prepared for the position that I’m in now. I’ve paid my dues, I’ve done my work, and now I’m polished to a point where putting me in this position is something that I’m ready for, so I’m not like, “Oh my God, how do I handle it? What do I do? What happens now? Where do I go from here?” You know, this is ultimate goal: to become a leading man and work with A-List actors and do projects where you’re looking at twenty to thirty million, or fifty million dollar budgets, and it’s literally about you saying to yourself, “The projects need to get better. My body of work needs to get better.” And it’s knowing what to choose for you. I’m at a point in my career now where I’m choosing projects that can further my career and can take the star level to a completely different atmosphere, so it’s more a preparation of project picking than anything. It’s not really me preparing and how do I do this, how do I adjust, it’s just picking out the right projects that are big and a great vehicle for me.
John [Leguizamo], he talked about going from the stage, Broadway, to doing this. He said when he’s on Broadway, it’s really physically demanding, and he was talking about how he had to train and do all this other stuff. Let’s talk about it for you, going on stage and going on tour. Is it different to do things for the movies versus going on stage?
HART: You know what’s weird, man? I’m so like not the — I’m not the method guy. Like, when you say, “Is it easy to go from here to here?” I don’t think about this shit. It’s, “All right guys, I gotta go. I gotta show tonight,” and I do show the show. “I’ll be back in the morning.” I’m on set at six. “All right guys, when I’m done with this, I gotta start the TV show. All right, I’m-” I don’t think about it. I don’t about it. That’s when you put too much pressure on yourself. “Oh God, how am I gonna balance this? How am I gonna go from here to here?” For, you know, I have fun. For me, working and doing what I enjoy doing is — me working and actually enjoying my job is the the best feeling in the world. Like, I’m happy when I come to set. I’m happier when I’m on stage. I control my destiny now. I mean, that’s the thing about becoming a made man. Stand-up comedy is mine, it’s my entity, it’s my brand, I own it. I do it when I want to do it. I’ll stop when I want to stop, start when I want to start. When you have movies and you have projects that are coming up, you can pick and choose. All right, I want to do this. Oh, that’s gonna be great, me and this person. So I’m excited about doing these things, so there is no like, “Oh God, I’m going from here, now I go here.” Dude, I’m a kid in a candy store right now. It’s a good time. But this is what I mean when I say fun. It’s a work environment, but that’s an example of how we have a good time. Dude, it’s literally the best thing ever. From Cube to Will to Fish to John to Tika [Sumpter] literally, like everybody we have on the set is creating a fun environment.
HART: Hell no. There’s no way in hell. You’re dealing with crazy people on a consistent basis. No way in hell.
So, before, you mentioned 48 Hrs., and you think about back then, Eddie Murphy had the partner with Nick Nolte, and here, you and Ice Cube can stand alone. What does that say about how far hip hop has come and how far black comedy has come?
HART: Well, you know, I think, first of all, I don’t think people understand Ice Cube’s body of work. Ice Cube is a, and I hate to use the word ‘urban’ but — when you think of Judd Apatow, and a person who’s launched so many careers, Ice Cube has done that for so many comedians, you know? You look at Tucker, you look at Mike Epps, you look at Kat Williams, you look at Terry Crews, you look at John Witherspoon, you look at Sommore, Don D.C. Curry, Rickey Smiley — all these people are people that came in and have had cameos. Who else? AJ Johnson. These were all people who literally were able to have careers because of opportunities Ice Cube gave them. As a guy who started Cube Vision and went and took Cube Vision to another level, so, you know, when you think hip hop, I associate Ice Cube with such a different level, ‘cause he’s not just hip hop. He’s a brand. When you think Jay-Z, you just don’t think rapping anymore. He’s a brand, and this is his hobby. His hobby is making films, making quality movies, and he’s learned how to do it, and now, not only is he successful, but he’s a qualified person to do the job. So when he puts a film together, it’s not BS or a thought or a possibility. People have to take a real sit down and have a real conversation and execute, because the man knows what he’s doing, so for me, working with him is not even saying how far hip hop has come. It’s showing that when given the opportunity, people take the time to learn and invest the thought and time they should — the sky can be the limit in what you’re doing, and he’s an example of that. So I’m literally following in those footsteps from starting a company to producing my own things, but it’s from seeing the guy who have done it, who have been successful in doing it. It’s a reality. It’s what can happen. So he’s a great example of that.
Here’s more from my Ride Along set visit: