Ice Cube is a rapper, director, screenwriter, film and television producer and an actor. He is the Executive Producer of his new movie Lottery Ticket, also taking on the role of Mr Washington.
The film tells the story of Kevin Carson (Bow Wow), a young man living in the projects whose life is changed when he wins a $370 million lottery. With everyone in the neighborhood after him for money, and with the danger of somebody actually stealing his ticket before the lottery office opens in three days, Kevin befriends Mr Washington, an old man who once was a sparring partner to boxing greats Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks, who seems to be interested in Kevin for himself, and not for what he can get from him.
Can you talk about the process of developing your characterization of Mr Washington? Were there particular challenges in playing a character who is quite a bit older than you?
My father was wondering why I kept watching him, looking at his mannerisms. He caught me looking at him sometimes and said, “What the hell is this boy looking at?” But I was trying to pull his energy, and my uncles’ energy. I just remember older cats pulling me aside and telling me what I need to do to be a man in this world.
What I didn’t want was to play a dude who was 70, that lost his swagger. The old dudes that I know still got their swagger. They don’t lose it. I just wanted to draw from these people that have been instrumental in my life, and I couldn’t wait to play him. I was ready to get out of the box and play something a little different than what everybody has seen.
You’re also the producer of this movie, so what is an Ice Cube set like?
Let me just say that it was an Erik [White, the director] set. We just were there to make sure he could get his vision off and we could help him do it, and put a little two cents in there, that’s all.
Is this a comedy or a drama?
I think it’s just a great movie. When you have a good movie, it’s hard to categorize it. It’s everything. It makes you laugh, makes you cry and makes you think. We’ve got a funny movie, but it’s a great movie too.
You’ve been in the business for 20 years now. Do you see yourself among this talented young cast?
Yeah, I see myself. When you’re 70, you don’t have to lose your swagger, and I don’t expect to lose mine anytime soon. It’s a good thing to just do things that people enjoy, especially when they ask you to do it, over and over again. You try to deliver something new every time. It feels good to still be in the mix, doing my thing, having fun with it and growing my company. We’ve had a lot of great people to work with. Matt Alvarez (producer) did a lot of the heavy lifting on Lottery Ticket. And, we just continue to grow.
You’ve gone from Boyz in the Hood to family films. Do you feel like you’ve come full circle?
I don’t know if I want to come full circle. I just want to keep going forward, and just keep doing what feels good and right. I feel like I’m a filmmaker, and ‘hood comedies are our specialty. People love them, so why should I not do them because I want to do something hard?
I really use my records to have the freedom of that, but my movies are for the audience. We do them for everybody to enjoy them. If people want to see more family fare, that’s what we’re gonna give them. We’re gonna be good at it, and we’re gonna try to be better than everybody else.
We’re gonna find new talent. There’s a lot of untapped talent in our community and our world. People who don’t really get a big shot, I want to give them a big shot. That’s how I live, and we’ll keep going forward, and not worry about what happened in the rearview mirror.
When you first became very successful, did your friends change and want something from you?
The first thing they tell you is, “Don’t change.” But, what you realize is that you don’t change that much. It’s everybody around you. You find yourself alienated. Everybody is talking about you before you get there, and you can feel it. It’s a whole different thing.
Everybody that wants to be successful should always be careful of what you wish for. A lot of artists and entertainers want to put the genie back in the bottle and wish they could go back to being what they were. It’s not like that, so you’ve got to make that adjustment.
What I decided was that, who was cool with me before I made the money was going to be cool with me now. Who wasn’t cool with me before I made this, I’m giving them problems all the time, like I was before. I was all, “Don’t get nice on me now!” That’s how I approached it.
I just made sure I stayed myself. I didn’t want to go Jack-in-the-Box. I just wanted to stay myself. That’s what I did and it all worked out. This is a good problem to have.
What’s the best check that you’ve written, since you made your money?
I get good checks. I don’t know if writing them is ever good!