MC Lyte hosted a VIP screening of “Straight Outta Compton” in New York and of course The Knockturnal was on the scene.
Ice Cube, F. Gary Gray, and cast Jason Mitchell, Corey Hawkins, and O’Shea Jackson, Jr. were in attendance. Read what Gray had to say below:
MC Lyte: What a phenomenal piece of work, so many places to start! Let’s make sure we clap at any time and all times when you feel it, ‘cause that’s the kind of people we are, right? So don’t be ashamed to clap and show some acknowledgement and give these gentlemen accolades for this particular project, Straight Outta Compton. Mister F. Gary Gray, I know you have done many a works but you must live for this project.
F. Gary Gray: Absolutely. This was extremely personal for me. I’ve been knowing Cube for over 20 years. He helped me start my career, he jump started my career with Friday and “Today Was A Good Day” and a lot of works, but this one was arguably my best.
MC Lyte: How long did the film take in its entirety to film?
Gray: It took a couple months to film, but I just wanna step back to these guys just for a second, with Jason. I don’t want to minimize what he did ‘cause it was quite a feat. This guy comes from New Orleans, and to actually step into L.A. Culture, L.A. ‘80s, and Eazy-E was really tough. And if you look at movies like Raging Bull where DeNiro has to lose weight and gain weight and step into his character … this guy had to eat 4,000 calories a day. Then I made them record the entire album, Straight Outta Compton, all three of these guys had to record the album, and then I had them go to the gym, and then I had WC from WC and the Maad Circle work with them. And between that and rehearsals and DJing school and all this stuff that they had to do in eight weeks … it was a major feat. And these guys really deserve all the props they are getting.
MC Lyte: I understand. And the point that you said that Gary was part of the decision process, you saying whether you wanted to do it or not, how did it feel being a director who’s behind the seats having such a heavy influence on our culture?
Gray: You know, it’s interesting, I don’t think in those terms. I’m just kind of always thinking about what’s next. I’m glad that people acknowledge that and the work that we put in and the past, but I’m just kind of always trying to figure out what I’m feeling right now in the present and what I’m going to do next. I respect your opinion on this because you were there and you tapped into what we were trying to create was the heart. And you think NWA, you think gangster rap, you don’t necessarily associate humanity with that genre of music and heart. And so the fact that you recognize what these guys put into a movie we were trying to create about the brotherhood, I appreciate that because that is exactly what we were going for and I think people will be surprised. How many people were slightly surprised about what you saw when you ended up experiencing this movie? (Applause)
Bun B: Whose idea was it to really show that more personal side?
Gray: The one thing that I told Cube and subsequently the studios that we dealt with was, “You’re going to make money the first weekend with this movie no matter who directs it. You have great music, you show some lowriders and a little bit of music you’re gonna make money, but you don’t need me to direct that, you just don’t need me for that.” I grew up in LA at that time, I’m a fan of N.W.A, we understand the when and the where, but I wanted to understand the why and that’s what’s part of what makes this movie feel like you can tap into the humanity of it. If you understand why and you understand where they ended up, the females in their life and their wives were extremely important to show another side to them. There’s actually a longer cut that exist that you guys will probably eventually see with more relationships in there, because people think that NWA has this type of relationship with women, but Cube is a family man he has been with his wife for over twenty years, Dre has been with his wife for over twenty years and so for you to get a chance to experience some of that and how much they love their family, it breaks some of these misconceptions and some of these things that you think about the group, and understand the humanity and just the human beings behind the words. I’m glad you pointed that out man because it’s so much bigger than NWA, it’s so much bigger than the music, there are people behind this art and that’s what makes the story strong to me.
MC Lyte: What I loved was just seeing you all not be afraid to be bumped. It just was like, “Whatever y’all gonna do, we gonna do this song [“F— Tha Police”], they gonna slap us on the ground, shove us in the whatever.” But you were okay with that.
Gray: And that’s the credit that I don’t think NWA gets enough. When you see it in this movie now, it was a lot of courage for Cube to stand up against what was going with the group, what was wrong with the contracts, and he walked away having nothing. Then Dre stands up and he’s like, “Listen something’s going on. I know we’re making all this money but something’s not right.” And he walks away from NWA. And then he walks away from Death Row. These guys stand up against law enforcement. So it was a lot of courage back when it wasn’t cool. It was like, “You know what, we broke, we need to make a little money. Let’s just get in where we can fit in.” But at every turn these guys stood up…some of them took a little longer than others, but they stood up and walked away from things when most people wouldn’t.
Kevin Davis: This question goes to F. Gary Gray. Knowing your body of work from Friday to Set it Off all the way to Law Abiding Citizen, I saw a lot of character development that we see in a lot of your films. From Eazy, to Cube, to Dre. What were some elements going into this film that you wanted to take from all your bodies of work, even coming from Law Abiding Citizen, with the action sequences, to Friday, with just the humor aspect. What were some strategies and ways you wanted to put together this cinematic masterpiece?
Gray: You almost laid them all out. Basically from Friday, when I met up with Cube, the one thing that people didn’t know about him and this kind of persona, this guy that everybody is afraid of is that we always laugh. And so, where we come from there is always humor. Always humor, even in the midst of the drive-bys and all the bullets and all the stuff that we gotta deal with, there’s always humor. So in any of my movies you’re gonna find humor, no matter how dramatic it is. With Set it Off, what I did with the guys is…I took the same approach I took with Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett and the girls, in that movie. I said, “Basically you guys have to be friends. I’m gonna re-write this script every single day…and it doesn’t matter what I give you on paper. I want your friendship to be real.” So I used the tactics from Set It Off to create a bond between these guys so no matter what pages I put in front of them, they operated from a place of truth. And then with The Italian Job or Law Abiding Citizen” you know…action, you know what I mean? I didn’t want to just make history, I wanted people to be entertained. Now you guys, we all work hard for our money, we want to go to the theaters and just have a history lesson. I wanted to open a movie with a punch in the gut. I did that with Law Abiding Citizen because it was such an awful title. People didn’t know what it was it’s like, “Is it a courtroom drama, Law Abiding Citizen … I don’t know what it is.” If you know the movie, it just starts and all bets are off. The movie that I read didn’t have the battering ram and the dope dealing scene in the beginning. It was kind of written in a collage. So I said, “We gotta find a battering ram. We have to open the movie with action so people understand they’re gonna go for a ride.”
MC Lyte: What an opening, huh!?
Gray: Thank you for pointing that out. I feel like all the films that I have made up to this point have really trained me for this movie. Thank you for recognizing that.