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July 2005
Hustle & Flow : An Interview with Anthony Anderson

Hustle & Flow : An Interview with Anthony Anderson

By Wilson Morales

Anthony Anderson continues to amaze the audience on the big screen with his versatility. Earlier this year, he was the star of "King's Ranson", which wasn't a critical or financial success but gave him the opportunity to be a lead for a change. Currently playing a dramatic part on TV on "The Shield", Anthony is showing a lot of heads how much talent lies within him and on July 22, folks will see in another dramatic turn in the Sundance favorite "Hustle and Flow" opposite Terrence Howard. Anderson plays an old high buddy of Howard's character who helps him turn from pimp to rapper. In speaking to blackfilm.com, Anderson explains why he took the role and talks about the incident that occurred while shooting the film.

Why'd you choose this? Why'd you say yes?

ANTHONY ANDERSON: I felt it was time for me to take my career in a different direction. I've made twenty-six films to date, twenty-four of them have been comedic films. Yeah, check IMDB, yeah, over a billion dollars already.


ANDERSON: No, but, before it was getting to that point where it was just 'Anthony is just the funny guy.' Before it got to that point where I was just known as the comic relief of the film I wanted to really just show the world what I could do. You know, I've trained at this since I was nine years old. And, if they loved what I did comedically, I was like 'I can't wait for you guys to see what I can do on the dramatic side.' So I was willing to sit out passing on projects until a project like Hustle and Flow came across my desk or I created one with my producing partner back home. At the same time Hustle just landed in my lap. Craig approached me and said he wanted me to do it. I read it and I was on board, and then the struggle to make the film came. And, you know, John Singleton got attached and we still couldn't make the film. So John put his money where his mouth was and made it happen.

John Singleton financed it.

ANDERSON: Yeah, John Singleton and Stephanie Allaine. Yeah. They sold and mortgaged their homes to make this happen.

Is it amazing to you that a person of Singleton's reputation would go this far to get a movie made?

ANDERSON: Yeah, it is amazing, I mean, you know, but that's Hollywood for you. You know, with this film in particular, I mean Hollywood passes on films all the time. I mean, they passed on Million Dollar Baby, they passed on Monster and you look at what those movie did at the Oscars.

"Million Dollar Baby" made a hundred million at the box office.

ANDERSON: Yeah, and that movie was passed on and was with Clint Eastwood. But that just shows you how Hollywood thinks sometimes. In this instance they couldn't get beyond the thought that it was a pimp and ho story. Its more than that. It just happens to be a story that involves a pimp. I don't need anybody to validate who I am. I do it for me. I do it for that. There is some redemptive quality and factor there, its like 'Look this is what I've been telling you I could do.' People have been asking me 'Was it difficult to prepare for the role in Hustle and Flow' or 'for the role on The Shield'. And I tell them 'no, it was difficult to get the opportunity to portray those characters. That was the difficult part for me.' I've trained for this since I was nine years old. This is what I do. I'm an actor. You know, and sometimes people get lost in that and just see you as this. I was like 'No, I'm a creative person. This is what I do.'

But why didn't Craig see you? When he talked to you about this, why didn't he just come to you and say Anthony I know you can do Keith?

ANDERSON: Because he has an eye and he's a great director. You know, and great directors recognize talent. He had never seen any of my, and to this point no one has seen any of my dramatic work. He recognized that in the work I've been doing. He came to visit me on my television show The Andersons and handed me the script saying 'You're Keith.' It's been four years since he did that.

How do you think your character reconciled doing this and working with this pimp and making this kind of music? That's not really, and I always think its going to, but we've got something popular here.

ANDERSON: Right, well, you know, it wasn't the fact that he was a pimp. I mean we all have our stations in life. Whatever they are. What I recognized in him was his vision and his dream because I had a vision and I had a dream. You know and we sit there in the kitchen when he first comes to my house and we sit and talk and I tell him 'There are two types of people. People who walk the walk and those who talk the talk.' You know, those who talk the talk, when it comes time for walking, they talk people like me into walking for them.' In that conversation and him with his little Casio keyboard. I see in that instance, kind of what Craig Brewer saw in me for Key. I see in him, no this brother walks the walk. This is what I've been looking for, because everybody that I've been dealing with up to this point has only talked the talk. I can walk with this brother. You know, and we have history. We went to school together and its just he went in his direction and I went in my direction. And that's all it was, but the commonality that we had, that we're both dreamers and we both basically were going through a mid-life crisis trying to figure out what we're going to do or what we need to do. And we find in one another what we need to get over that hurdle to knock that hurdle down or to get under it. That's what I use to go through that.

How did doing all the comedy help you find your dramatic voice in things like this and the Shield?

ANDERSON: I'm not going to say it helped me find it. I mean, you know, comedy is second nature for me. I do it in my sleep, with my eyes closed. Just, that's how I was raised. I get it from my mother and my family. You know, I've trained at this since I was nine years old. I went to the high school for performing arts. I went to Howard University on a talent scholarship. Got accepted to UCLA on the talent scholarship and things like that. But I attribute finding that dramatic voice to my professors. Ozzie Davis, Ruby Dee, Hal Freeman Jr., Avery Brooks, Carol Singleton and Mike Malone and Bill Gill. These were people that I studied under for years. So they helped cultivate and mold that dramatic voice for me at a very early age.

Didn't you have to go through a horrible thing last year with an arrest while shooting this film?

ANDERSON: I was falsely accused of something while filming Hustle and Flow in Memphis. It's unfortunate that celebrities, the hell with celebrities, people are targets of that.

Yeah, that happens a lot.

ANDERSON: I happened to be the one with the deep pockets in that room. So I was the one they went after. But, you know, we didn't even have our day in court because it was thrown out based on the merits of the lies. We were fully exonerated of all the charges that were brought against us. You know, we all have speed bumps in life and its really how you recover after that.

How did you recover?

ANDERSON: We're sitting here talking about Hustle and Flow, talking about The Shield. Talking about the Departed. Talking about me working with Meryl Streep in a few months on The Devil Wears Prada. I'm not gonna tell ya. I'm gay though. It's not official yet. It looks good.

Make sure you get your clothes. You use any stilts to play Andre and Leon?

ANDERSON: We'll see, I might wear my Herman Munster boots. It will be interesting how they bring Antoine back on The Shield.

Can you do it with the movies?

ANDERSON: Oh yeah, we would make that happen. They were very accommodating with me when we were doing The Departed. We've been doing The Departed for the last few months now.

Who did The Departed?

ANDERSON: Martin Scorsese.

What do you play in The Departed? Are you a crook or are you a cop?

ANDERSON: No, I'm a cop. My name is Brown.

Why did Martin Scorsese say he wanted you for this movie?

ANDERSON: I had my meeting with him and found out that I was the only guy that he wanted to see. I left his suite at the Bel-Aire Hotel and as soon as I walked out the door, the casting director walked out behind me and was like, "You got the job." It's exciting. When you get a call from a person the stature of Martin Scorsese who's the best in the business, you get excited. You have tears of joy and you're on cloud nine for days on afterwards.

Would you want a cop like Vic (from The Shield) out there?

ANDERSON: Would I want a cop like Vic out there? There are cops like Vic out there. I don't know, man. I don't know, it depends on how effective. Raphael Perez was a cop like Vic Mackey and you see the scandal that he brought down on the Rampart division of LAPD and because of that, not only the Rampart division but LAPD have been under so many sanctions and they're still under them for the next five years. That makes their work a bit more difficult to do now. Now the watch commanders in every police station has to interview each suspect that comes through the door to make sure that his rights or her rights were not violated. That takes the watch commander away from doing other jobs that he needs to do that may be pertinent to saving lives out on the street. So no, we don't need cops like Mike Chickles, like Vic Mackey on the force. No we don't. If the showdown would be allowed I think that's what would bring Close back but you didn't hear that from me.

You were just talking about the incident in Memphis. But this thing that just happened with Leo, with getting smashed with the bottle. Were you at the party at the time?

ANDERSON: No. No. I had actually left already. I actually heard about it during a press conference after that.


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