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Chris Rock not only stars in the new movie Head Of State, he also produced, wrote, and directed it. He has been touring the country to talk about the movie and his future projects. Writer Glen Bucher posed a few questions when he attended a roundtable interview with Chris Rock.

How did you get started with this project?

Sitting around with no job. I had no gig, nobody had a movie for me. I really didnít want to go on tour. I didnít want to leave my house so I sat down with my partner and started hacking out a movie. Three months later we had Head Of State.

How was directing for the first time?

It was fun, fun for me. I wasnít super nervous, I donít know why. Sometimes Iím too stupid to feel what I should be feeling at the time.

How did you learn all the processes that go along with it?

Iíve done a bunch of movies, Iíve probably done more movies than the average guy thatís directed me. Iíve been on the set for three months a year for the last 10 years.

Are there any particular directors that you kept in mind while you were working?

Kevin Smith. Because we are the same age, we like all of the same stuff, we have similar levels of intelligence. So, if Kevin can do it I can do it.

Who is your Jay to your Silent Bob?

I donít know. Iím not Silent Bob, Iím more of a screaming Bob.

How long did the movie take, from start to finish?

A little under two years.

How did you decide to co-write, co-produce, direct, and star in your own movie?

It was a practical decision. When you are doing movies itís like studios only really want to make about four movies a year and one of them stars Tom Cruise, one stars Tom Hanks, one stars Julia Roberts, and then that other movie is just something that they end up making because they have a slot or the momentum of the project carried it through. With this movie, you sell the script but if you donít direct it then you have got to go find a director, which slows down your momentum. If you find a good one, great, but if you donít find a great one immediately you know youíre in trouble. I always knew it would go quicker if I directed it. I just knew that. It takes a whole year off the movie.

How tough is it to find roles with your personality and is that one of the big reasons you wrote your own?

Yeah, itís very hard. They just wonít let me do them. You know, itís not my money. People can do what they want. You got to write your own movie, thatís pretty much how it goes. I would have loved to have done Old School, but they didnít call me. That is just how it is. You can sit around and mope, or write a movie.

Were you involved in the casting?

Thatís the beauty of directing, you get to cast the movie, you get to dress everybody, you pick the music. All that good stuff.

How did you come to cast Bernie Mac and what was it like working with him?

Bernie Mac is who I wanted all along. It was written, from treatment form to script, it was always written for Bernie Mac. We never did a movie or anything. He did an episode of ďThe Chris Rock ShowĒ and Iíve known him for about 13 years, just from doing stand up, clubs and stuff like that.

What was your favorite part of the movie?

I love Bernie Mac, as a director, I love him getting off the train, he didnít speak and he just starts smacking people and itís kind of cool.

Did anything crazy happen on the set?

No, not really. I was focused, I needed a hit. It was my first movie too and I didnít want to waste Steven Spielbergís money.

Your next project is Madagascar, have you started working on that?

I did some of it Monday, Iíve been working on it for more than a year now. You know, these cartoons take years and years. Youíre just in a studio and they tell you the lines and you give them interpretations. I play a zebra, I think Ben Stiller is a lion, and Madonna is a hippo.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

No. I may tour.

You are a great stand-up comedian but it has not translated to the big screen. What do you think is the reason for that?

Itís never going to transfer movie-wise. Especially the stand-up I do, man, you canít do movies like that. You just canít. When you do an HBO special there is absolutely no censorship, not only no censorship but just no collaboration. HBO gives you some money and says give us a special by this day. You do a movie, thereís a lot of collaboration and a lot of compromise to get it where you want it just to get a PG-13. My stand-up specials would all be NC-17. Hopefully Head Of State works and I get more freedom and I can make the movies funnier and funnier, but I donít see how you could put that kind of edge in a movie. Itís just hard. No oneís going to let you do it, unless I get $30 million to blow.

Does that frustrate you at all?

It is what it is. Itís kind of frustrating but itís not against the law for me to still do stand-up and give the people that.

Have you ever wanted to work with somebody?

I really want to work with Denzel. Hey, I would have loved to have been Antwone Fisher. I would have loved to have been in Training Day.

Was Robin Givens fun to work with in a comedy?

Yeah, she was real fun to work with. It shocked people when she comes back. Itís like, hey this is cute.

How did you guys come up with the whole Super Whore concept?

You have to acknowledge the Clinton-Monica Lewinski thing somehow, you canít be ignoring everything else. But you want to do it just right, you donít want to make her name like Monica or make her look like Monica Lewinsky. This just seemed like the coolest way to deal with it. A very stealth way.

How hard is it for you to come up with an act?

Eight weeks of training. Itís like boxing you know, in eight weeks I can pretty much have an act but I have to live it for eight weeks. Maybe a little more if youíre totally out of shape. That act may take another month or eight weeks to be great. I write it and go test it out in the clubs. I donít assume Iím special, I assume Iím a normal guy and if Iím laughing at it someone else will. Iím sure thereís other people like me. I go to movies, I laugh at the same stuff yíall do.

If Mays Gilliam was president right now, what would he do with Saddam?

Hmmm, I donít know. Iíd kill him with kindness.

One of the things that stood out to me was the myth that white people canít dance, and that drew the biggest laugh. Was that really hard, did they really have some rhythm?

Most of those people are professional dancers. The choreographer, Fatima, worked with them and that is the stereotype breaker.

Were there any jokes that you had to leave out?

You know you had to watch your language, especially in a movie dealing with politics. Itís all language. All talk. You have to have toned-down language.

Is there anything we can expect on the DVD that we didnít see in the theater?

I donít know yet, I havenít started it yet. But Iíve got some stuff. We had a scene with Saddam Hussein, for a minute that was going to be O.J. Simpson. O.J. would be endorsing the other candidate. We kind of had O.J. ready to do it, so it wouldnít have even been a video tape it would have been O.J., but the studio objected.

Do you think youíll direct any time soon again?

I hope so, I like the work. Plus if this movie works then I would have proven myself and that would make the job a whole lot easier.

Is an any Academy Award in your future?

I doubt it, Iím black and a comedian. I have almost no shot to get it. More so for being a comedian than being black. So I have no shot at Oscar.

Does that bother you?

No. The awards are all stupid and show, how can you tell which one is betteróChicago or Gangs Of New Yorkóitís idiotic. No, if two people make Gangs Of New York you can judge which is the best one.

What was your favorite movie over the last year?

Bowling For Columbine and 8 Mile.

What are your goals as a director?

Just to get better. The same goals I have as a comedian and as a writer, just get better.

How much did Bernie Mac contribute to his character?

You know, you ad-lib some things, like the NATO thing. He just came up with that, and I thought, great, thatís going to be in the trailer. Also, his wardrobe was made by his tailor. He didnít have a lot of lime-green suits, but if he did it would look like that.

Do you have anyone that you try to emulate?

No not really. But I love a guy like George Carlin or Sam Kinison. They are a great influence on me.

Are there any up and coming comedians that you are impressed with?

I like Dave Chappelle.

When the box office results come in, what will make you happy?

I donít want to say, I just want the public to respond in a favorable manner.

Do you think itís the right time for this kind of movie to be released?

I know if I was going to a movie theater next week I wouldnít want to see things blow up. I can sit in my house and watch stuff blow up. I donít need to see a phony war when thereís a real war on TV. Comedy is what the doctor ordered. ďGod Bless America, and everywhere else.Ē People need to hear that right now.

Do you think the current politicians can learn anything from Mays Gilliam?

I think that people would respond if politicians just spoke from their heart more.

 


Mike Doughty



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