Are We There Yet?: An Interview with Ice Cube
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By Wilson Morales
What drew you to "Are We There Yet?"
Ice Cube: Adam Sandler had this project at first. And he couldn't do it. So Revolution asked if my company would acquire the script, and sort of tailor-make it for me. So we looked at and said, yeah, and made our notes on what changes needed to be made, and just started putting it together.
Do you see this film as a variation of "Home Alone" and the "National Lampoon's Vacation" series?
Ice Cube: This is expanding of the success of a movie like "Barbershop". I have done R rated comedies and the Friday franchise and with both Barbershop films being PG-13, this is really stretching it. I'm testing my boundaries, but I wanted to do something for my youngest fans. They loved those other movies but those films aren't for them. I've been in the game for 20 years and in the movie game for 15, and so I've never done anything for my youngest fans so this is strictly for them.
Are you saying that your kids haven't seen a majority of your films?
Ice Cube: They've watched all of the old stuff anyway, so it doesn't matter. They watch anything they can get a hold on. This is something you can take the whole family to. By having 4 kids, I have always seen those types of films. I've seen the good ones and the bad ones, the ugly ones, and the ones that you sleep through. I just wanted to be a part of making a good film.
How would Ice Cube handle the unruly kids in the film?
Ice Cube: Not as good as Nick. Those kids wouldn't have been in my car like that. The minute they messed up the car door, I would have taken them home. I would have told the mother that this isn't going to work, come pick up your kids. I just don't have that much tolerance for bad kids.
Whose thought was it to have the kids' behavior be that extreme?
Ice Cube: Well, of course. It's a movie and you want them to be that extreme. This is a movie for them. Their job was to stop this road trip from happening under any circumstances. Their behavior was extreme because they felt they had to do so in order for their mother to get back with their father, and their thing was to sabotage this trip. That was their motivation. We wanted them to put me through the ringer because kids will like it. Kids love to see a movie like this.
What were the requirements you had when you agreed to do this film?
Ice Cube: Well, I know that kids want comedy in the film and I knew that would work. I just want to make the story interesting enough for adults to get with the program. It sort of feels like a romantic comedy and then it spins into this kids' "Home Alone", "Vacation" and then it returns back to what it started and that was the whole purpose; to keep the parents interested. To make it kid friendly and not too corny because some of those movies are too corny. We had our little corny moments but for the most part, we made it interesting enough for the older kids to get with it.
You seemed to have a great rapport with the co-stars, Phillip Bolden and Aleisha Allen. What did you do on your downtime to keep the energy flowing?
Ice Cube: Just having and talking and telling jokes. The kids had a bundle of energy anyway. They would go over to craft services table and have stuff filled with sugar and they were ready to go. We had a lot of bad weather during the movie. There were a lot of frustrating days where we wanted to shoot and we couldn't, but they had a ball. They just hated to go to school. The lady would come snatch them to take them to school and they would make faces. They hated that part.
Did you find out you would be doing "XXX" while making this movie?
Ice Cube: The way Revolution Studios and Neal Moritz set it up is that there's going to be a new "XXX" person every time. This is the second film and it's mine and just stepping in, I just wanted to tailer-make it for me. I play a whole new agent, so this isn't like James Bond. It will be a totally different agent who has nothing to do with the last one. Once they told me that and worked that out, I just knew that it would be my movie as soon as we started shooting.
What can we expect to see from your character in "XXX?"
Ice Cube: He's more of a disgruntled soldier. He's in a military prison. He feels that the government has given him the shaft. Samuel L. [Jackson] can't trust the government any more, so he goes outside the box and gets a guy like me. Who's got a chip‹some revenge to get back. So that's the way the guy is. Totally serious. Not too many laughs and giggles.
You mentioned Samuel L. Jackson. He's been talking about how he doesn't really like to act with rappers. How did you feel about that? And how did you handle working with him on "XXX?"
Ice Cube: We both just handled it professionally. I'm there to do a job. He's there to do a job. That's kind of how we approached it. But we had a better rapport. Because Sam, from what I understand, just doesn't really like working with rappers who aren't into the art of filmmaking. But Sam knows that I'm a filmmaker. I've put together more films from scratch than he has. I've hired more actors than he has. He's probably looking at me in a different light. I've jumpstarted a lot of careers.
He didn't even mention it; he came in and treated me like a fellow actor. You know what I'm saying? Somebody that he respects. Because I respect his work. Who can't respect Sam as an actor? He's still one of my favorite actors; I don't care what he has to say about rap. He's still one of my favorite actors. I just don't agree. I think that if you've got the chops, you should be given a shot, and then the audience determines how long you'll stay.
Now that you've been doing so much acting, do you feel that sometimes you need to get back to music just to keep your head fresh?
Ice Cube: It's always fun. You know what I mean? I used to push my career. Try and come out every year with a record. And then I'm like, "Man, I got seven albums out, and I'm like 27, 28." So I say, "Yo, it's time to slow this thing down a little bit, and kind of spread it out." And the movies picked up. It's just a thing where I go from one project to the next, and really don't think about it as much, as far as, "Damn I'm going back and forth." Or, "Damn, I need to do a record."
You've done so many different types of characters. You've done the action stuff. Now you've done the kid movie. What's next for Ice Cube?
Ice Cube: I want to do more drama. You know what I mean? Comedy is the path of least resistance for my company right now. People know we can do them. People know they get a good response. People want to make them. Who am I to push up against that? We'll do that for a minute, and then one day we'll show what we can do dramatically. There's no rush. I'm only 35. I'm not trying to retire at 38 or nothing like that.
Even in your comedies, though, you have a certain seriousness. A dramatic tone. Is that something that you shoot for intentionally?
Ice Cube: I just think that's the best way for me to pull it off. I'm not a comedian, so there are things that I wouldn't even try. But when I can make the situation right, and make things funny‹organically in a way‹then it just comes off better. For some reason, that's usually the tone of the guys that I'm playing. I'm usually playing the guy that's going through all this stuff. All these crazy people are interacting with a guy who, hopefully, the audience sees as sane.
After you've done such heavy music, did you do the comedy to show that you can laugh at yourself, and not take yourself too seriously?
Ice Cube: Not really. I've never really taken myself too serious. That's everybody else, listening to the music or whatever. I've always said what I've felt, said what I thought was right, but I've always had a comedic bone. Take "Friday." If you remember, all this bad shit is happening on this neighborhood. You're dealing with dope smoking, drug dealers, drive-by shooters, and neighborhood crack-heads. But it's looked at in a funny tone.
That's why it's hysterical‹
Ice Cube: Yeah. It ain't looked at as a "Menace to Society" or "Boys in the Hood." My records have always done that. For every hardcore record I've had, I've had a "Nappy Dug Out." Something funny.
What can you tell us about "Four Brothers?"
Ice Cube: I don't even know if I'm going to be a part of that project. It's looking like that's breaking down.
When you made it big, you helped show that people can come from something as extreme as the gangster roots, and then grow, and that there's a positive afterlife. Do you feel that's part of what you accomplished?
Ice Cube: What I wanted to show is that everybody who comes from the gangster life‹they want what that man in the suburbs wants. Nice family. Nice house. Nice cars. Bills paid. Kids in school. Food on the table. Nothing more. Nobody trying to be Scarface out here. Everybody just wants to be comfortable.
People always wonder, "You came from all this hard stuff, but now you ain't pumpin' that as much‹that hardcore image." Because now my family's comfortable. I have things that I haven't had. Now I'm speaking for the people who can't speak for themselves. From my point of view, yeah, I'm not "in the hood" no more, doing all that stuff, but I've got people there. I got family there. Most of my roots are there. I can't separate myself from that.
But the gangster in the hood, the dude that's in the penitentiary, the dope dealer? All he wants is to be comfortable. Nice house. Family. No more, no less. That's really what this shows. If you give anybody the chance, they can always make a decent human being out of themselves. It's the people that don't have a chance, that we look down at like they're monsters or they're animals or that they want something different than the rest of us. That they don't' want to be like us. That's not true. They want to be just like everybody else.
Do you ever feel uncomfortable about being in the crosshairs, instead of just the spotlight?
Ice Cube: Never. Never. It's a small price to pay for where I've come from and where I am. It's like, please.
Easy call, right?
Ice Cube: Yeah. I've dealt with a lot harder shit than reporters coming down on me. You know what I mean? That's kind of easy to deal with. I know who I am. I know what I'm about.
You mentioned "Friday." Any plans for a new "Friday?" The Friday after next Friday?
Ice Cube: "Last Friday?" [Laughs.] It's starting to rekindle. Every time I say no, it starts to rekindle. Now I'm getting calls from cast members, saying, "When are we going to do another one?' I always say that this is the last one, but then it starts to rekindle.
Do you have a script?
Ice Cube: Nah. I never start on a script until I know who's coming back, for sure.
So who's coming back?
Ice Cube: All the good characters from the first one to the last one I would want to get back. I know I'm not going to get Chris [Tucker] back, but I'd love to get everybody else back.
How about "Barbershop?" Plans for a third one?
Ice Cube: No, no plans in the works right now. I think that they're so focused on the tv stuff, that I don't know if they want to do a third one.
Now you've been in three movies with Nia Long [Cube's co-star in "Are We There Yet?"]. How has that relationship worked out so well?
Ice Cube: It's just good chemistry. She can play any kind of woman. And she brings intelligence, not just a pretty face. She's just solid, man. She's got range. With our movie "Are We There Yet?" she's like the emotional foundation to the movie. She always brings her A-game, no matter how big or small the role.
Who else out there would you like to work with?
Ice Cube: I'd love to work with Denzel. Or DeNiro, or Pacino. On something real dramatic, big.
What can you tell us about "The Extractors?"
It's in development. It's not really ready to go. But I don't like to talk about movies that aren't ready to go, because it'll jinx them, and they'll never get made.
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