Cedric The Entertainer Interview – STREET KINGS

     April 5, 2008

Opening this Friday is the new David Ayer film “Street Kings.” If David’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he previously wrote and directed “Harsh Times,” and he also wrote “Training Day.”

While some filmmakers love to switch genres after every movie, David has once again made a film that deals with the LAPD. Here’s the synopsis:

Tom Ludlow (Keanu Reeves) is a veteran LAPD cop who finds life difficult to navigate after the death of his wife. When evidence implicates him in the execution of his former partner, Detective Terrance Washington (Terry Crews), Ludlow sets out on a quest to find the real murderers responsible and bring them to justice. With the help of a young Robbery Homicide Detective (Chris Evans), the two team up to tackle the diverse communities of Los Angeles. Forest Whitaker plays Captain Wander, Ludlow’s supervisor, whose duties include keeping him within the confines of the law and out of the clutches of Internal Affairs Captain Biggs (Hugh Laurie).

To help promote the film, I recently participated in roundtable interviews with most of the cast. I’ve already posted the Chris Evans interview, now here’s Cedric the Entertainer.

During our twenty or so minutes we covered all the usual subjects and of course I asked him about the long rumored remake of one of my favorite guilty pleasures…”Back to School.”

As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the audio of the interview as an MP3 by clicking here. Finally, here’s a link to the movie clips we posted for “Street Kings.” Again, “Street Kings” opens this Friday at theaters everywhere.

Question: I remember asking you about this a while back and you said that you couldn’t talk about it.

Cedric: Yeah. It was all top secret. You’ve got Keanu’s Reeves comeback [laughs].

Question: This was his comeback?

Cedric: Yeah, that’s how it was described. ‘This is the comeback movie for Keanu!’ [laughs] No. But I guess at the time with David directing it and kind it coming after ‘Training Day’ they were trying to give it a whole mystique. It’s dope though. It’s a really fun movie to be a part of, a real grimy L.A. kind of thing and in parts of L.A. that even though in recent years they’ve shot a lot of cool things in – ‘Collateral’ took a chance to go outside some spaces that you don’t normally see, but I think we were in some real neighborhoods.

Question: Where you’re sort of looking over your shoulder?

Cedric: Yeah. I was like, ‘Dave, you know, I know some of these people. This is not recommended, having cameras and stuff.’

Question: How do people in those neighborhoods react when they recognize you?

Cedric: That’s the fun thing. You actually do have to some things barricaded because people are very, I guess what the description of going to a Black movie theater would be like. People just yell out, ‘Hello, Ced!’ You’re like, ‘We’re rolling right now.’ ‘Ced!’ ‘Dude, I’m in the scene. I’ll holler at you.’ It was a lot of that, a lot of familiarity and a lot of love, but people that just aren’t really paying much attention to the whole movie etiquette, being quiet while we’re shooting. They have their own agenda at the time. They want to say what’s up and ‘My momma loves you. Sign this for my little girl.’ ‘What’s your daughter’s name?’ ‘Just put John on there.’ ‘I thought it was for your little girl –’ but it’s really for them.

Question: Your character, Scribble, the name is hilarious first of all. How would you describe him as a gangster?

Cedric: Scribble – there’s always a different level of gangster people out there, but Scribble is one of these guys that uses his personality, that kind of good charm, to live his life. He hustles whatever he can. He does a little bit of this and a little bit of that. He’s one of those people that’s probably not good at any thing over the top. I pictured this guy when I started developing him as probably trying to pimp a little bit at one time. He tried to sell some weed. He’ll try to move some weight, but he got scared. It wasn’t really his thing, but because of where he lives and he’s got that kind of personality and can kind of connect dots that’s how he basically hustles in his life. It’s that kind of thing and he’s able to do it in a way that gives it some style. I definitely have a cousin that I based him off, kind of. He started out doing the drugs and that kind of got scary for him and the next thing you know he was doing the bootleg movies and he would sell the Gucci purses, but he was always hustling in some kind of way. That was a little less of a kind of threatening lifestyle, selling the clothes and he got into the throwback jersey’s and got popped. So whatever is the latest craze he’s the man that’s making it happen right there. So that’s who Scribble is to me in this movie.

Question: Was the character written like that on the page or did you make it up?

Cedric: On the page he was definitely more of an L.A. street guy. He was supposed to be a hood guy, maybe an ex-gang member or something to that nature. That was the idea. As I was talking to David he felt like the movie needed a little bit of a bounce to it. Then I started describing the same character to him like my cousin. He said, ‘Oh, I love those kinds of guys.’ They exist. They do illegal things, but not in a way that you’d go, ‘Oh, you’re a criminal.’ No. You actually kind of like them. ‘That’s fun. Matter of fact, give me one of those tapes. How much for the jersey, for real? I know that’s illegal, but that’s nice.’ I think that he liked that. So there was room to develop him out and play with him a little bit from what it was on the page.

Question: Do you say to your cousin, ‘Please don’t sell my movies. Anyone else, but mine.’

Cedric: I try. I’ve asked him that and he says that he doesn’t, but I already know. I already know that’s one of the first things he’s doing. He’s like, ‘No, no, no, cuz. I’d never do you like that, you know what I’m saying?’

Question: Is the giveaway the mailings where he’s asking you to sign stuff?

Cedric: [laughs] Yeah, right. ‘Yeah, just sign these for me because people love you round here.’ That’s the whole thing he tried to gas me up on.

Question: What’s the craziest business venture that someone you know or your family has tried to get you involved in?

Cedric: Oh, man, that would take some thought. I mean, I’ve had them all kind of come about the perfume thing. I had a cousin who wanted to become the warehouse for the guys who sell all the perfume and the colognes and yet he had no kind of salesman abilities. It just made sense to him at the time and kind of wanted the colognes. Of course the record labels. I lost a lot of money early on. I always say that whenever you first kind of come into cash you listen to people and they all seem like they make a little sense. A limousine company that was based off of a guy knowing a guy that had a funeral home. This was a good friend of mine. He knew a guy who had a funeral home who had some limousines but he couldn’t do the limousine company while the cars were being used, but all he needed was the capital to be able to kind of market the business. We tried that for a while. There’s something about funeral limousines, something very different about them. I don’t know [laughs]. Maybe it was the fact there were a bunch of people crying in them and some mourning in there. It’s like, ‘Is it in the car?’ It’s just not the same occasion. Then in St. Louis, the funeral homes I guess want to be different and so they take a chance of having burgundy stretch limos so that you know it’s theirs and for prom I’m not sure that you want to go out in a burgundy Continental [laughs], unless they happen to be your high school colors, but that’s up to chance. ‘Rise Again I’ on the plates.

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Question: What’s it like being intimidated by Keanu Reeves? Was it hard to keep a straight face?

Cedric: Yeah, because you know you keep kind of going back to ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’. Keanu, even when he turns it up it’s the same thing. He’s like, ‘I need to talk to you about something.’ ‘Alright, Keanu, you’re really mad here.’ ‘I need to talk to you about something.’ ‘Got it. Got it. You scared me that time.’ But he does have some small nuances that work. He’s actually a pretty cool guy. He can be kind of quiet and aloof at times, kind of over to himself, but we found ourselves having some cool little conversations and talking. He opened up. I had a good time with him on the set.

Question: What’s surprising about him because he’s a huge movie star and everyone thinks they know what someone is like?

Cedric: I was pretty surprised that he was really very cool with the people. We went and shot the final scene where we go up to the two bad guys, we were actually in this neighborhood that was pretty thick with Latino gangs and stuff, but I was surprised that Keanu would actually go over to the people on his own. He didn’t have to. I did it and you’d see Common do it, but it was on his own. He’d go and be up with folks. I was surprised by that and I didn’t think that was his personality. One, it’s because he can be very quiet and reserved. At any given time he’d be in his own little section doing his thing and you’d think, ‘Okay, let him do his thing, that’s his process –’ or whatever. The kids would come up to him or they’d be outside of the perimeter and he’d go over and say what’s up to them and hangout with them. I thought that was pretty cool and that surprised me about him. The fact that he’d do so many takes too. That’s the other thing you get with big star actors. They’re going to give you a few of them, but he was riding it out with whatever we had to do. If the shot had to be done over a couple of times he’d do it. I know we had to go over a flight of steps probably like ten times and it started to be a joke to us, between me, Chris Evans and Keanu. We had to keep going up this flight of steps. It got to be this running joke about us being trapped on the stairs and then we started doing it as a movie. ‘The Stairway! The Sequel. Three men, stuck in a stairwell.’ It was all day. I don’t know why they couldn’t get this shot right, but we had to do it like eleven times.

Question: Did it make the final cut?

Cedric: I don’t even know. I don’t even think so. After all of that you don’t see us going up the steps. You probably see us going through the doorway. ‘Thank you! That was great.’

Question: You’re linked to doing a remake of ‘Back to School’. Is that actually going to happen?

Cedric: No. That was a movie that was with the old MGM before they sold to Sony and then took it back and then decided whatever. So it was from that regime and we wanted to do it. There are a few producers that are still talking to me about trying to get the script and turning it into something, but we’d started developing a new script for it, but it was at MGM at the time. Once they decided to not make films and sell to Sony and now they’ve decided to make some films – I don’t know what category it’s fallen into. So right now it’s just outside of the goal marks, so to speak. No one is really talking about it at this point, whether we’re going to do it or not.

Question: What about this one where you’re supposed to be Willie Dixon?

Cedric: I’m doing that right now. That’s ‘Cadillac Records’. That’s great. We’re shooting in New Jersey. It’s got a great cast too. It’s got Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess and Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters. Willie Dixon was a big blues writer. He wrote a lot of those big blues songs and he played the bass. So it’s just been fun. I went and shot some scenes on it already. Mos Def is Chuck Berry. This is hot and Beyonce is doing Etta James. I’m not sure I’m supposed to say that. She has to do her own press.

Question: It’s on IMDB.

Cedric: Good, good, as long as that’s your source. Do not say that I said it.

Question: What kind of bass?

Cedric: The upright bass so I had to learn that. It was good because the great thing about Willie Dixon is that he only played with one finger. He can do a lot of stuff, but he did one finger and maybe two every now and then, but would rock everything with this one finger. He had huge hands though and that was the hardest thing, but it was kind of easier to learn the basic bass with this one finger.

Question: So you learned with one finger?

Cedric: I learned with one finger because that’s how he played and you want it to look as authentic as possible. There were a few songs that I had to learn, but they were easier ones. He was pretty complex as a musician. He had an interesting style. Again, he had these huge hands and so he could hit these different chords really easily, but only used this to plug. So he’d go all the way across with one and maybe every now and then he’d use this one.

Question: And he sang too, right?

Cedric: Yeah, he sang.

Question: Are doing your own singing?

Cedric: I am doing my own singing. Everyone is doing their own singing. Jeffrey is singing. I only sing background in this movie. I don’t sing one of my own songs, one of Willie’s. I teach Jeffrey, ‘Hoochi-Koochie Man’, and so we sing there. Then it cuts to him singing it and it’s more of the recorded version.

Question: Have you worked with Beyonce yet?

Cedric: No. That’s unfortunate. That is unfortunate.

Question: What do you have after ‘Cadillac Records’?

Cedric: After the movie I’m directing an independent movie. This is my first time directing. I’m doing this comedy called ‘Chicago Pulaski Jones’. It’s about a young dancer. I got Kel Mitchell from Nickelodeon. It’s basically a young dancer who wants to avenge his uncle’s death. So he wants to learn karate. He can’t fight unless he hears music and so he basically invented this thing called Dance Fu. It’s silly and fun. We’re having a good time with it. It’s a fight/dance movie. So it’s ‘Bring it On’ or ‘Step Up’ meets Jackie Chan’s ‘Shanghai Noon’ or something. But it’s a good time. We financed that through my production company. We bared the burden on that and having a good time. I was producing it first and then decided to shoot it.

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