Jun 2002
Still In The Game : An Interview with Chris Rock

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

Still In The Game : An Interview with Chris Rock

It’s not easy sustaining a long career in this business. Actors come and go by the hundreds. To survive, you must be good or at least have a good agent. Unlike most comedians who get a shot at stardom on the big screen with a lead role such as Robin Williams, Eddie Murphy, and a few others, Chris Rock had to work hard before he was given a film to carry. Now, fully established as a big star, Chris talks about his role in BAD COMPANY and his “luck” so far.

WM: Can you talk about your character in the film?

CR: My character Jake Hayes is a ticket scalper, DJ, hustler type who has a twin brother he was separated from at birth. His brother Kevin is a CIA agent. Kevin gets killed and JK has to take his place to finish a mission. And to help him finish the mission, Anthony Hopkins will show him the ropes of becoming a spy.

WM: Can you describe your first meeting with Sir Hopkins? Do you remember?

CR: I think it was a photo shoot. It was like some early press thing and you know. It was how are you, how are you? We bonded; Being in Prague helped a lot because we both were experiencing Prague. So we automatically had something in common. It was like where are you eating, no, where are you eating? Is there a bookstore, oh boy, there are no American bookstores. Oh, I found one, or I found a record store. If we had done the movie in LA we wouldn’t have bonded as much. We were going through something together. If we had done the movie, like in LA, we wouldn’t have bonded as much.

WM: Did you like Prague?

CR: I liked it. Prague is like New Orleans without the food. Swingin’ sin city type, voodoo. It’s got an aura.

WM: In speaking with Garcelle (Beavais), she said that they were not that many Blacks in Prague so it was a different feeling for her. Did they know who you were and did they find you funny?

CR: They had no idea who I was. But there were Blacks in Prague. It wasn’t like being in America in a town with no Blacks. They hadn’t seen Blacks. They were like the Blacks they see was like Shaq or something. It was like a curiosity thing. Like, ah, you’re one of those Black people that I’ve heard so much about. It was kind of cool no one knew me but no one followed me around in a store or anything; hit their car door or anything. It was just oh, a Black guy.

WM: As someone born and raised in NYC, it’s a special feeling playing a character that saves NY?

CR: I’ve been so lucky to work in New York. I did “New Jack City” in New York, I did “Down to Earth” in New York, I did “Boomerang” in NY, I did this movie in NY, I did the “Chris Rock Show” in New York, I did “Saturday Night Live” in NY. I have been very fortunate to have worked in NY so much.

WM: Actors and spies, at least undercover spies have something in common don’t you think? You’d probably make a great spy.

CR: Naw, cause I’d be Black and too many people paying attention to you anyway. You gotta really blend in. I guess I’d be a good spy in Africa somewhere. But, being a Black spy is a hard one to pull off.

WM: How do you go about adapting the lines for your character? Did you rewrite a lot of it and did you improvise? What were your favorite lines?

CR: It’s weird. The first time you read the script, you’re just reading it for the story. The second time you read it. I read it to find out where can I be funny without messing up the movie. The best ad-libbing, I don’t know. I guess some of that was ad-libbing and some of the bomb stuff, when I was detonating the bomb or checking out the bomb. The Dr. Dre., Shaq stuff was kinda ad-libbed. But you know the day before what you’re doing the next day. So you sit around you jot stuff down. The best ad lib was the one you thought of yesterday. Be prepared.

WM: You went from having a small role in “Beverly Hills Cop” to costarring with Anthony Hopkins. How does it feel to co-star with one of the most respected actors in the world after over a decade of working?

CR: I’ve been fortunate. I’m fortunate that I started 18 years ago and they didn’t give you a starring movie when I started. Nowadays there’s no building up process. It seems like a plan, but a lot of it is just luck and the era I’m from. I mean the last five, six years try to pick good projects and try to work with good people. And try not to spend that much money so that I can turn down really bad movies. That’s the key more than anything. To be able to afford my house and stuff like that.

WM: Would you say that this is the biggest role in your career?

CR: Yeah, I guess it would be. I remember when I did “Nurse Betty” that was big too. The movie didn’t turn out to be this blockbuster. But working with Morgan Freeman was incredible too.

WM: Is your next film, “Head of State”, about the first Black President?

CR: Well, it’s not the first Black President. I think Tucker’s doing the first Black president. I’m doing an election movie more than anything. The basic premise is that I play an alderman from D.C. D.C., Maryland area. We haven’t zeroed it in yet and the Democratic nominee has a heart attack three months before Election Day and the Republican candidate no one wants to run against him because he’s an incumbent and he’s a war hero and he’s Sharon Stone’s cousin. So they decided to get a patsy to lose this election and they’ve chose me as this alderman. So I get to run and comedy ensues.

WM: Have you been spending any time at the White House to research your role?

CR: No, I’ve been around Bill Clinton a few times lately. Been in D.C. brushing up on it. It’s more the Mel Brooks take on politics. I’m not really trying to make the contender here. I’m not trying to. If all you guys hated the movie and the people in the theatre loved it, I’d be so happy. Making a political movie is hard. ‘Cause people really don’t care about politics in a mass way like we think they do.

WM: Do you have any more projects lined up?

CR: Actually there is one more movie. I’m producing a movie for HBO. It’s gonna go in August. The Marion Berry biopic with Jaime Foxx starring as Marion Berry. That’s drama, that’s straight drama. Madagascar is a couple of years away, that’s DreamWorks. I’ll have 2 movies going in the DC, Baltimore area.

WM: Are you going to be doing any more specials for TV?

CR: I’m gonna. Soon as I’m done with “Head of State.” Everybody’s saying you’re doing movies now and no more TV. Directing a movie, especially with the crew I’m working with, it’s all the same people from the “Chris Rock Show.” And, by directing it I’m really getting back to what I was doing on TV. That was having my hand in every part of it. So, hopefully this movie is like what you say you’re missing.

WM: Thanks for speaking to blackfilm.com.

CR: Thank you. Maybe I’ll do a Christmas Special.