Director Tim Story Talks RIDE ALONG, the Chemistry Between Stars Ice Cube and Kevin Hart, Drawing Inspiration from TRAINING DAY, and More

     November 12, 2013

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In the past, director Tim Story has been incredibly successful when working with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart.  His 2002 film with Ice Cube, Barbershop made $75 million, and last year’s Think Like a Man with Kevin Hart made almost $100 million.  That’s particularly impressive when you consider that each film only cost $12 million.  Now he’s got both actors in the same movie with the action-comedy Ride Along.  The film stars Hart as 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.  Click here to watch the trailer.

During a visit to the set last December, a group of fellow reporters and I got a chance to sit down with Story and talk about the chemistry between his lead actors, trying to shoot around the Christmastime decorations around Atlanta, how the movie drew inspiration from Training Day, and more.  Hit the jump to check out the interview.  Ride Along opens January 17, 2014.

ride-along-posterWhy don’t you talk about the current script.

TIM STORY: You got it, you got it, you got it.

What elements of the current script-

STORY: Absolutely, absolutely.  That’s a complicated first question, sorry guys…backstory.

Was the first draft subpar?

STORY: No, no, not at all, not at all.  The script that we went into production with just was extremely funny.  The writers Phil Hay and Matthew Manfredi just made an amazing script that was hilarious.  The concept had already been around for a little bit and once myself, [producer Will Packer], Kevin and Cube came on we had an idea that could just bring it more to the voice of these two actors.  So we took that and the guys brought in a first draft that was incredible and that kind of got the film green lit.  From there we continued to work with them and did a comedy polish, but the script was always there, and luckily these guys came and they gave us something we could go forward with.

Is there a bit more pressure going into this film because the last time you and Will collaborated it did so well and kind of shook Hollywood a little bit? Are you walking into set thinking this one has to do as well as your last project?

STORY: You know, yes. We’re trying to do a great film, period.  And we think with this genre which is kind of a- [laughs] Okay, so we’re trying to do really, really good films. The pressure that exists is the one that we put on ourselves.  We believe that what were doing is funny to us and in turn it has worked out that what we find funny and what we find good has turned out to find an audience.  So all we try to do is be true to what we believe.  So as long as we believe.  Like we’ve said, if it makes us laugh and feel good in the cutting room we’re going to go with our instincts right now.  It’s worked out so far.

ride-along-tim-story-kevin-hart-set-photoWhat’s it like directing Kevin Hart?  Is it hard kind of pulling him in, reining him in, and giving him orders?

STORY: You know, you don’t give Kevin orders.  You just kind of keep him in bounds. Kevin is an amazing collaborator.  You’d be really surprised at how professional he really is, and that although he gives you all this off the cusp and ad libs and all of that stuff its very structured.  But within that what makes him a true talent is that he’s able to make the structure look natural and unrehearsed and all of that . That’s what, in my opinion, makes him a star is that he brings that quality to pretty much whatever he does.  So in answer to your question in directing him, it’s an absolute pleasure because you have somebody who not only helps you do what you need to do, but the other actors.  And is there on time, shows up when you need him, so forth and so on.  It’s great.

Because you’re shooting around Christmas time and shooting out in Atlanta do you find you have to shoot around the decorations, or is this just going to be a film that takes place during Christmas time?

STORY: No we got lucky and also it was a little bit of a plan, we knew that a lot of the stuff that we were going to do on the exterior that we would do earlier in our shoot.  Like today we’re inside of a loft and in front of that loft that we control the look, and then for all of next week we’re inside of a warehouse for the finale.  So we kind of knew- we’ve run into this problem before where before you know it Christmas trees are up and you can’t drive down the street.  So we kind of planned that and so far its worked out.

ride-along-tim-story-ice-cube-kevin-hart-set-photo-1Obviously this is a buddy comedy to a certain extent, especially with them being cops and working together with Kevin and Cube.  Can you talk about Kevin and Cube’s chemistry together and just how they bounce off of each other?

STORY: Yeah their chemistry, first of all, is just picture perfect.  Cube understands so well what he brings to this tandem, as well as Kevin.  While Kevin is bouncing off the walls Cube is the one that stares at him and waits ’til he finished bouncing and then picks him up.  Cube has been here before, he does this probably better than anybody out there, it’s the- you cut to his face looking at you like you’re an idiot, and Kevin does it like that.  So together it’s a classic pairing, in my opinion. It almost works too good. To the point where sometimes I don’t have much to do, which is great.  They are absolutely in tune, they get along, they give each other what each other needs.  They understand when one scene is the other persons scene and vice versa, and they just make it happen.  They’re great.

I think Will described the movie as sort of a comedic take on Training Day. Did you reference that before you came on to this one?

STORY: Yes.

And what did you kind of pull from what Antoine Fuqua did on that?

STORY: Well one, there’s the way he shot it.  We tried to shoot the movie not like a comedy.  We wanted to make sure that the stakes and the look was…for lack of a better word, dramatic, but at the same time just made it look real as opposed to a poppy, colorful comedy.  Inside of that we knew that we would have these two doing what they do.  So when it comes to Training Day I looked at a lot of it and what’s great about it is putting somebody in your car and taking them out for the first day there’s a certain amount of things that you’re going to do that- if you and I went out on a trip I’d start by saying, “Alright, here’s what a director does.”  So there’s so much of it that I kind of took from that movie from the look to moments that I know made that movie work. it was such a great movie that I have taken quite a bit from it and just, you know, kind of done my own spin on it.  At the same time, we do have a totally different story, but I’ve taken some of the framing, some of the-

ride-along-tim-story-ice-cube-set-photoAre there some direct references?

STORY: Actually there’s one that we filmed. Hopefully it lands in the movie.  It’s the Denzel Washington King Kong speech [laughs].  Kevin does that speech, so you can kind of guess what happens with it.  That’s probably the only direct reference.

What has been one of the most difficult scenes so far to put together while filming this?

STORY: The one that we’re doing. We’re doing a fight that happens between four people inside of a small room and the two fights never cross one another.  So its being able to show those two fights going on, but connecting them while there’s this girl that’s chained to a chair.  So this is probably the most difficult scene we’ve shot and its proving that 100%

We were all surprised when we saw Laurence Fishburne today on camera. How high up on your wish list was he for this film?

STORY: He was the top tier.  When we thought about Omar we needed to- Omar is spoken about through the whole movie until he shows up about maybe 3/4 of the way in, and we knew that when that person showed up they had to kind of come with a history, and I guess that history would be badass, and when he shows up that’s what you get.  So he was kind of- I mean, it’s Laurence Fishburne.  You know when he shows up, and when you think about the scene that they show up in Kevin is impersonating that character, who has never been seen before.  Then Omar shows up, who is Laurence Fishburne, and now Kevin and Omar, Kevin and Laurence Fishburne, have to argue about who’s the real Omar.  So it kind of makes it perfect that Kevin has to go up against probably one of the, not just the finest actors of our time, but also one of the most foreboding and big and-

Intimidating.

STORY: Yeah, intimidating actors of our time.  So it’s perfect.

ride-along-ice-cube-kevin-hart-2So he’s kind of like Orson Welles in The Third Man.

STORY: Yeah, we also- I mean, look, it’s Darth Vader to a certain extent.  We also say Keyzer Soze, but inside of the generations we’ve found that a lot of people don’t know who Keyzer Soze is.

What? What?!

STORY: Trust me we went around the room like “You know who Keyzer Soze is? Oh lord…”

Do you feel underrated as a director?

STORY: Underrated?  You know what, I kind of I don’t put myself up against people like that.  When it comes to the ratings I don’t know what the rating system is.  So when it comes to me I’ve learned, with the little experience that I have, that when I feel really good about a movie in the editing room, it works. and when I’ve felt like a movie wasn’t working, it didn’t work.  So I’ve found that when I’m doing a comedy if I’m laughing, until I’m proven wrong, I’ve found that it has worked.  Whether it finds an audience or not is something I don’t have any control over.  So in terms of your question, underrated, I don’t know.  I know as a director I hit it out of the park sometimes and sometimes we haven’t and that’s kind of the way art goes.  You just have to be willing to take the “failures” and learn from them make the best of them.

Here’s more from my Ride Along set visit:

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