Ice Cube has his own version of “Mini Me.” The rapper’s 24-year-old son, O’Shea Jackson, bears such an uncanny resemblance to his famous father that the Hollywood newcomer was able to pull off playing dad in the upcoming movie Straight Outta Compton.
“It’s eerie — even our mannerisms are the same,” Ice Cube said from Landmark Aviation airport in Doral in the midst of the cast’s whirlwind press tour. “But it’s been like that for so long it doesn’t freak me out anymore.”
Out Friday, the biopic follows the story of N.W.A., the groundbreaking, controversial rap group formed in the gritty streets of Compton, California, in the 1980s. Cube was in the original lineup along with neighborhood buddies Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, MC Ren and Eazy E, who landed their manager, Jerry Heller, and subsequent first record deal. Straight Outta Compton — with such infamous hits as F tha Police — debuted in 1988.
Director F. Gary Gray went to great lengths to make sure his actors not only resembled the actual people but sang like them, too. All voices you hear performing in the movie belong to a band of fully committed quick studies.
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“N.W.A. went viral before the Internet,” said Gray (The Italian Job, Set It Off). “They transcended race, they transcended age. Their stuff was so potent and so unsanitized I needed for this to be as authentic as possible so you could feel connected. This goes way beyond Google-ing them.”
Jackson had a slight advantage over his co-stars when it came to the musical scenes.
“My father’s been taking me on tour since I was a baby. When I turned 18 I actually started rocking with him. So I was in my comfort zone.”
But no nepotism was involved in the making of this production.
“When I was first approached with the script I thought this is a pretty fish to try to get in the boat,” Jackson said. “But it took about two years to get the part. I mean this is Universal Pictures. I had to put in the work — acting coach, screen tests, all of it. Once they finally picked me we had about a month of boot camp to get the mechanics of my dad down.”
Props helped Jason Mitchell jibe with Eazy E, who died of AIDS in 1995.
“I knew I had to cross my T’s on this one; you know, he was a big deal,” said the actor (Broken City). “After I gained some weight, I put on the sunglasses and got the Jheri Curl going and I was good,” Mitchell said, laughing. “I looked in the mirror and jumped back and was like, ‘Whoa!’ I scared myself.”
Gray couldn’t be more pleased with his charges. Improv was the reward for a hard day’s work.
“We have a term for it: ‘eating.’ It’s kind of short for giving them an opportunity to kind of make a meal out of the moment. I told them, ‘Hey, listen, N.W.A. first and foremost were artists. So I’m going to let you be artists. Let’s see what you have to contribute and hear your interpretation of these people.’ They were going through the process, too.”
Ice, who shares producing credits, was blown away with how much art imitates life.
“I don’t call this a documentary, but a ‘movieumentary’ because it’s so close to what happened. I feel like I’m looking at us. I gotta remind myself that these are actors and kind of re-train my brain. I can’t imagine how audiences are going to feel.”
Bringing Straight Outta Compton to the screen has been a longtime dream for the hip-hopper turned actor/screenwriter (Friday, Friday After Next), who will next be seen in Ride Along 2, filmed in Miami.
“This is a slice of history and a sign of the times back then,” Cube explained. “We show you what we were going through and why we did what we did. We set up Compton as a character. There is a great story here, down to little details and information that even our fans may not know about. It’s a labor of love and just woven together beautifully. No Hollywood bull.”