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Top Five

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max from fearless

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on: December 04, 2014, 05:18:10 AM

Written, directed by, and starring Chris Rock, Top Five tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist forces him to confront both the career that made him famous and the life he left behind. Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, J.B. Smoove, Sherri Shepherd, Anders Holm, Romany Malco, Leslie Jones, Michael Che and Jay Pharoah.

max from fearless

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Reply #1 on: December 04, 2014, 05:20:13 AM
Chris Rock Pens Blistering Essay on Hollywood's Race Problem: "It's a White Industry"

Writing for THR's current issue, the 'Top Five' writer, director and star tackles Hollywood's third rail as he explains what it's really like to be black in the entertainment industry (hint: you get asked to be Huggy Bear, not Starsky or Hutch) and the "slave state" of Mexicans: "If Kevin Hart is playing 40,000 seats a night, and Jon Stewart is playing 3,000 ... why does Kevin Hart have to cross over?"



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Reply #2 on: December 04, 2014, 01:28:06 PM
He's been killing it lately in interviews, particularly the feature in NYMag with Frank Rich.

max from fearless

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Reply #3 on: December 05, 2014, 05:13:09 AM
School of Rock - A conversation with Chris Rock about rap, comedy, Cosby, and the art of casting.
by Rembert Browne on December 3, 2014 -- GRANTLAND

I once saw Chris Rock in New York attempting to be a New Yorker. I was getting a sandwich near my office in a building that shared a space with a gym. There was Rock, alone. On his ears sat a pair of cartoonishly large, Princess LeiaĖlike headphones.

Iím sure there was music playing on those headphones, but they screamed to me, ďPlease, just let me be for a moment.Ē They were world-blocker-outers, those musical earmuffs. They seemed to work, too. Sure, there was a head nod here or there, but for the most part, he got to just be. At that moment ó for a moment ó I was happy for him, a man who I had never met and had been watching nearly my entire pop-culture-absorbing life.

It took Chris Rock four years to direct a second film, and seven more to direct a third. Following 2003ís Head of State and 2007ís I Think I Love My Wife, he brings us Top Five, set for nationwide release on December 12. Itís a career-defining moment for Rock as an actor and, perhaps more importantly, as a director.

As in the previous two films, Rock stars. But one of the many things that sets this role apart is that his character, Andre Allen, is a comedian. Andre Allen is not Chris Rock. But itís hard not to watch Andre Allen without thinking about Chris Rock.

Allen has an identifiable arc of stardom. He began as a hotshot comedian, landed the lead role in a financially lucrative and critically panned trilogy (starring as Hammy the Bear, a police bear), and is now attempting to be thought of as a serious actor in an upcoming drama. Allenís star has fallen since the Hammy films, but the one thing that has kept Allen relevant is his engagement to a reality star played by Gabrielle Union ó a celebrity engagement being documented on television.

When we meet Allen, heís promoting his film and is being profiled by Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), a journalist at the New York Times. What follows is a series of events (many of which revolve around a running shtick of various characters ranking their ďtop fiveĒ rappers) taking place as Chelsea follows Andre around and learns more about him than she ever expected.

After seeing a film about Bizarro Chris Rock being interviewed about his life and upcoming film, itís odd to then sit down and interview the real Chris Rock about his life and upcoming film. But two days after I saw Top Five, we met at New Yorkís Carlyle Hotel, in an ornate bar-lounge adorned with murals of Madeline in Central Park.

This comically elite setting was a hideaway, a place where no one seemed to care who Chris Rock was. I found that borderline insulting, but like he did with those headphones, Rock seemed to find it extremely relaxing.


Iíve done very few of these type of Q&As, because Iím not a huge fan of celebrity interviews. Because they tend to beó

Theyíre bad.

They tend to be bad. The funny thing about the film is, to an interviewer, the interview Rosario Dawsonís journalist character gets with the lead is the dream interview.

The dream of getting that much access? Yes. You can kind of get it ó because Iíve done it ó if itís like a cover story in Rolling Stone. People cover stories are like a week, and they have to have access to your house and all this other stuff, so there are circumstances when you get it.

You did a roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter recently and you said ďyouíre never meeting someone, youíre meeting their representative.Ē

Yes, you are.

When youíre being interviewed, do you want to get to a point where the person has convinced you to break down that representative part?

If we were, say, friends, there would be silence from time to time. You know, you need to check your phone, youíre eating, whatever. But you donít really want that. Hopefully over the course of the interview, though, I let you in on something you didnít get before.

Thereís a point in the movie when your character, Andre Allen, keeps saying to the journalist, ďCan we talk about the film, can we talk about the film?Ē when heís asked about personal things. When you are going through this press process, do you ever get to a point where youíre like, ďI want to talk about literally anything else but the filmĒ?

No. I mean, Iím selling a movie. And I donít do press unless Iíve got a movie coming out. Like literally, why would I do press? People always want you to do press. You never see me on Letterman or something unless I have a movie coming out. Your time in front of the camera is finite. Itís not definite. People interviewing you, itís all finite. You should definitely use it to better yourself.

[Rock stops talking to watch a little white boy walk through the Carlyle, very comfortable, pointing at the roomís murals.]

[To the woman trailing the boy] This kidís going run a company someday. This kidís going to green-light my movie someday.

This kid probably owns this bar.

He might.

One of the movieís themes is this idea that when Allen got sober he stopped being funny. And how he had to find it within himself to be funny again. Do you think thatís true to any extent?

The whole sober/funny, unsober/not funny thing, thatís one of these questions weíve been asking ourselves forever. You know, people always wondered about Richard Pryor, was he as funny not on drugs as he was on drugs. Lenny Bruce, same thing. Sam Kinison, same thing. George Carlinís probably the only one I saw be as funny as a sober person as he was as a drug addict.

Do you think itís harder to be funny once you get rich and famous?

I hope not. I mean, most of our biggest comedians are kind of rich.

Yes, but the idea of ďmy profile is big, but if I get complacent, Iím doneĒ has to be constantly on your mind, right?

If you get comfortable, you just start doing work for the money, youíre done. Youíre a done artist. And that goes for an author, a director, anybody. Once youíre not doing it for the sake of proving yourself and challenging yourself, youíre done.

Why did you rename the movie Top Five?

What do you mean?

When I saw the original rollout for the movie, it was called Finally Famous.

It was Finally Famous. I donít know, Finally Famous almost sounded like a rom-com.

Itís also the name of a pretty mediocre Big Sean album.

Yeah Ö Big Seanís name kept coming up. I was like, you really think Iím biting Big Sean? Nothing against Big Sean. Shout-out to Big Sean. Very good on the ďCliqueĒ record. But, you know. Itís weird, the ďtop fiveĒ thing wasnít that big in the initial script. But doing top fives kind of took over the movie. By the time we got to Seinfeld [in the film] doing a top five, we were like ďOK ó thatís the name of the movie.Ē

Thereís a history of films that feature a bunch of black folk in a room ó with no white people present ó shooting the shit, arguing over lists, cracking jokes. Barbershop, The Nutty Professor, whatever. Thereís a scene like that in Top Five, with Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, Jay Pharoah, and other funny black comedians in a living room. Were you actively trying to differentiate your scene from similar scenes in other films?

I never really thought about those movies. No disrespect. Those movies are just a little broader than this one. Even the way the camerawork is kind of in a real place, where those movies are like movies. I tried to shoot this like a documentary, almost. So it could feel real, feel like you can get lost in it.

Was that scene easy to pull off because you had so much talent in that room?

You had a lot of talent, but you still had to hit the plot points. It was a fun scene to shoot because youíve got a lot of funny people around, just going for it. But people think, Oh, you guys just ad-libbed all of that ó no. Lots of plot points in that [scene] pay off later. Literally setting up the ending in that scene.

One thing about that scene: the throwing around of ďn​-​-​-​-Ē in an almost celebratory way, in the sense that itís very casual and not being used to prove a point, but thatís just how people often talk in that space.

All of us are from around there, kind of. So it made sense.

It felt very familiar. When you make that scene, do you care about who laughs?

I canít really think about it. You make a piece of art that you like and you put it out. You have no control after that. You literally donít. Like, noooo control. Thereís no television cable network that only goes into black homes. That goes for writing a movie, doing stand-up, or Snoop Dogg making a record. Itís a funny scene!

One thing that came through that youíve discussed in other press youíve done is how the film gives a glimpse of what itís like to be black and famous.

A little bit.

Even being black and having a platform of any kind. This idea that with black fame comes certain responsibilities that other folks donít have to deal with. Things other white actors donít have to think about. Was that a conscious thing you wanted to come through the film?

I definitely made a point to tell Leslie to tell me to ďStay blackĒ in one scene. No one tells Brad Pitt to ďStay white.Ē ďBen Affleck, stay white.Ē What the fuck are you talking about, ďstay whiteĒ? I just tried to do a movie in a realistic tone. People always think, What were you trying to say? Iím not trying to say nothing, Iím just trying to entertain people, trying to make things that donít bore me. Trying to make things that feel authentic. Trying to make a movie that I havenít seen. In a tone I havenít seen. Thatís what Iím trying to do.

Does that get annoying that people think you have to have some underlying meaning behind everything?

Itís not annoying. Itís kind of cute. Itís kinda Awww, really, you thought all of that. Itís kind of flattering. Iím just writing jokes. But if you think itís all that, then cool.

Yeah, thatís not a you-specific thing ó

Iím not Public Enemy, Iím not KRS-One ó I love those guys. Donít get me wrong. [Pauses.] I think Iím more Ice Cube.

How so?

He stumbles across political themes from time to time, but heís literally just entertaining people. You might have the most militant record in the world and then he makes Are We There Yet?

And heís killing Bud Light commercials. So, um ó

Coors Light.

Wow. Thatís on me.

Someday heíll do Bud Light. Right now heís at Coors. Heíll move up.

How do you feel, at this stage of your career, about being asked to be a role model?

Be a role model to your kids. You just are. Your kids watch you every day. They kind of do what you do. But the whole ďBe a role model to peopleĒ [idea] is kind of racist when you think about it. Itís not like, ďGet on the back of the bus, n​-​-​-​-Ē racist. It suggests that my behavior is not natural. Itís like, ďHey I donít beat my wife because I donít beat my wife, not because Iím trying to help the race out.Ē Know what I mean? I read because I want to read. Itís like, you have a negative image of your people as a whole if youíre putting all of your eggs in my basket. Or a basket of my behavior. Really? I donít smoke crack because I donít want to smoke crack, not because Iím trying to help out. So youíre saying if I wasnít famous, Iíd just be in jail and cracked up if no one was watching me? No.

Are there any aspects of the Andre Allen character that you envy? Because a lot of the knee-jerk reaction to this character is ďThis is Chris Rock had everything gone south.Ē But are there aspects of him that you appreciate?

I appreciate anybody that can have a breakdown. Because breakdowns allow you to clean the slate. After a public breakdown ó you can do anything. Itís only going to go up after a public breakdown. It becomes ďAt least heís not tearing up a supermarketĒ Ö ďAt least heís not trashing a hotel room.Ē Thereís something admirable to anyone letting you know exactly how they feel and exactly how mad they are.

Which is also a classic example of why Richard Pryor is so beloved.

He didnít keep any of it in. Heís like, ďIím mad, Iím so mad, Iím going to shoot out the tires of this car.Ē Iíve been that mad, but I restrained myself.

Andre Allen is mostly known for a character named Hammy that he played in a movie. Throughout the film, people shout ďHammyĒ at Allen wherever he goes. Watching that shed some light on what that hounding must be like in real life.

Iím Pookie. Wherever I go, especially if Iím around black people or Hispanic people, dude ó Iím Pookie from New Jack City, forever. And I hear Pookie all day, every day, screamed from blocks away ó ďPookaaaayy! What up, Pook!Ē Thatís what it is.

I was thinking about that because there was a point in your interview with The New Yorker, where you alluded to the fact that you donít really have a ďHammy.Ē But in the right audience, you do.

VH1 plays New Jack City as much as AMC plays The Godfather. New Jack City is always on. MTV plays it. Itís that movie for a lot of people of a certain age.

And it wasnít last year.

Itís 20 years old.

Do you wish it was a different character?

Nah, nah ó itís great. I like that people have seen me grow up. Some guy was interviewing me the other day, and he was like, ďThis movieís like Boomerang, except now you run the company.Ē

The idea of growing up in public is now a very normalized thing. That wasnít true 20 years ago. What year did you start at Saturday Night Live?

I started at SNL around í90-91. Thatís around the time people started seeing me. I think Iím Gonna Git You Sucka comes out around í88 or í89. So that, then Beverly Hills Cop II and SNL.1

But between films and stand-up, you can plot how youíve felt about things over the past 20 years.

Iím old. Iím ooooooold.

[Pauses as a man walks by.]

The bellhop asked me if I was making a delivery when I walked in.

Itís the Carlyle. I watched a fight with Al Pacino here, of all people. Me, Al Pacino, [Leonardo] DiCaprio, Matt Dillon ó itís like all the Italian guys hung out together one night to watch a Mayweather fight and I got kind of invited.

You just called yourself old ó do you feel old? Do you talk to a lot of young comedians?

I talk to Hannibal [Buress]. I talk to Jerrod [Carmichael]. My brother does stand-up. I talk to guys a lot. I donít feel old because I feel like Iím in the same business. And I feel somewhat competitive with them.

Which is good.

I did some little club shows and had Hannibal open up, but I was like, ďI want to be better than fucking Hannibal,Ē know what I mean? So in that aspect I donít feel old. I guess when the day comes ó and itís going to come ó when those guys are better than me, yes, I will feel old. But right now, I can still take most of them.

Do you feel youíre trying to target your comedy for your age group? Are you trying to get 20-year-olds the same way you were?

I donít think Iím ever going to get 20-year-olds again. But also not really targeted for my age group, per se Ö

I donít really know what your target really ever was.

Itís weird, because when Iím in the States, itís a little older ó when I go overseas, it is really young. I get offers to do colleges. I donít know, itís not really a number thing, just energy. Do you have enough energy to entertain a 25-year-old? Carlin had it until he was 70, was knocking out colleges. I think Iím probably best if youíre 30. Paying some bills and have had a woman or man break your fucking heart ó Iím the comedian for you. If youíre mad at your taxes and shit and youíre, like, not really a Republican or a Democrat.

So if you like to question things.

Yes, if you like to question things, then Iím the comedian for you. Sometimes thatís not a kid thing. But Iím cool with it. The 20-year-olds that like me are really fucking smart.

Do you think it requires a strong knowledge of your back catalogue?

Iím sure thereís a bunch of kids that watched me on SNL the other night that probably never saw me before. Or thought I was the guy from Grown Ups and whatever the fuck. Probably never even saw my stand-up. So if that was your first time seeing me, hopefully you think that I can hang.

I once overheard a conversation between two college-age kids ó they didnít know LL Cool J was a rapper. They knew him from NCIS.

Yeah, thatís real easy.

I was like, ďDamn, that makes 27-year-old me feel old as shit.Ē

Yeah. I mean, itís real easy. LL hasnít had a hit in probably 25 years. Like, an actual hit. Not a record thatís on the radio. A hit. That, like, affected the culture. Since, like, ďDoiní It.Ē I mean, I guess ďHeadsprungĒ played at the clubs, but ďDoiní ItĒ was like that shit. It was amazing.

You could say the same for Cube. Probably like 15 years.

Probably about 20 years, too. Even Snoopís been a minute.


I mean, he ends up on someone elseís record every now and then.

Pharrell will keep Snoop relevant until the end of time.


But that happens. I have to imagine you donít expect that to happen to you. Or you donít want that to happen to you.

It will happen at some point. Iím sure itís happening already. But, you know, I try to mix it up. And itís not like Iím pandering to young people. You know, if you get an offer to host the Grammys and an offer to host the BET Awards ó host the BET Awards. Because it skews younger and youíll get more new fans doing that than even doing the Oscars. And thatís kind of the name of the game: How many new fans are you going to get doing this? Itís all about new fans. My kids donít know who Eddie Murphy is, my kids donít know who Madonna is.

How old are your kids?

My oldest is 12.

In a moment like this, are you proud of Hannibal for using his stand-up as a platform to talk about some real stuff? Or is it odd, as someone that has some connection or relationship with Hannibal and Cosby?

You know what, I talked to Hannibal a couple of times. He had no idea this thing was going to blow up like this. I canít speak for him, but he did not do it for whatís happened. He thought he was just telling a joke to the people there. He had no idea it was going to blow up.

Is this issue something you donít want to touch? Since you have some history with Bill Cosby critiquing your jokes?

Let it clear up. I donít know. I literally donít know. I wish I knew ó I just donít know. I donít see the pictures ó itís all just people talking.

I mean, theyíve been talking.

Theyíve been talking. Yeah. I donít know. The whole thing is sad.

Itís gone through the emotional cycle, from confusion to anger to disgust to sad.

Itís just sad. Itís exhausting.

While you were writing Top Five, did you have these actors in your head?

I definitely was like, I need Cedric [the Entertainer]. I definitely was like, I need JB [Smoove]. I didnít even know what part Leslie was going to play, but I was like, ďLeslieís going to be in this movie.Ē Brian Regan, I knew I had to find a part for him. Ben Vereen, same. For the leading women, we read a bunch of people. A lot of really cool actresses came in and read. And Rosario seemed like ó with certain occupations, when you have them in a movie, if you donít cast the right person, itís like címaaaaaan. Writer is one of those occupations. If youíre not of a certain intelligence, you canít play a writer. Thereís women and men who have played writers and youíre like, ďStop it. Just stop it. You donít write. You donít live in your head.Ē Writer, lawyer, doctor ó certain professions you have to project a certain intelligence, a certain weight, to carry it. And Rosario definitely has those qualities. You believe her. Sheís that smart. You believe sheís a mom with this kid. It had to feel real. Just wanted to make a real-feeling movie.

What about Gabrielle Union as the reality star?

She was right. She lives in Miami, sheís friends with some of these reality girls, so she was able to approach it from a human standpoint, where she wasnít making fun of reality stars.

I think itís easy to overlook her performance in this movie.

I think itís the best thing sheís ever done.

You canít avoid reality TV, so it was a very identifiable plotline.

You canít. And itís people on these shows. With feelings. And a mother and a father. And kids. Feelings, because theyíre people. Theyíre confident sometimes, and other times theyíre really vulnerable. So it was like, letís make them into people.

Not knowing much about the film, just seeing the cast, itís like, ďI have no idea what this is about to be.Ē You donít expect [REDACTED] to show up at the end of the movie, for example. Itís not predictable.

And it kind of works. Itís like, Oh shit, it kind of works.

Rounding up this group of actors to be in your film, is that a validating thing for you, being able to pull this off?

Itís about having good relations, but let me put it this way: I donít think anyone did a favor for me. If you called them up with that script, you could get all of them. Because youíre offering them real parts. Maybe Ö OK ó Kevin Hart did me a favor. Kevís busy. Kev did me a favor. But he still got a good part, though. A real part. And when you call up actors and youíve got a real part, you can get them. And everyoneís got a real part. If youíre Cedric and you read that, youíre like, ďOh, shit, Iím not getting offered this anywhere else. Iím going to score. Iím going to have the funniest scene in the movie.Ē JB ó any movie you see JB in, heís crazy. In this, he got to be the grounding force. He doesnít have any scenes like these in other movies.

The tricky thing is that, because a lot of the actors in the film feel like theyíre comfortable in these roles, you want to say that thing people say: ďItís like theyíre not even acting.Ē

I get a lot of that. Itís like, no ó we have a script. But they donít get to play that stuff. Rosarioís one of the most beautiful women in the fucking world, and I donít think Iíve ever seen her in a romantic comedy. Never seen her with a guy in a romance, ever. What the fuck is that? Gabs is funny, Gabs never gets to be funny, and sheís hysterical. So if you come to people ó if you come to me with a really good part, itís like, Yes. Letís do it. I donít care what the money is, I want to be in good shit.

Which is slightly connected to why I thought the Tyler Perry joke in the film was so funny.

He called me. He liked it. He told me Lionsgate wants him to do a Madea horror movie. I would actually go see a Madea horror movie.

Thatís just proof he will continue to win.

Heís the Puff Daddy of film. Heís like, ďYo, we wonít stop, did I tell you that we wonít stop.Ē

By the way Ö [I unbutton my shirt, revealing a Puff Daddy T-shirt.]

Youíve got a Puffy shirt on?

I had to button the other shirt up for the Carlyle.

Wow. Speaking of, Iíve got to see if I can borrow his house for New Yearís.

Is that how it works? ďPuff, can I borrow your house?Ē Thatís a very dope Airbnb life youíre living.

Well, he has a house in Miami. Itís fucking amazing. But, if no oneís staying there Ö

max from fearless

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Reply #4 on: December 28, 2014, 06:21:50 AM

Chris Rock on Breakfast Club...so many gems here...