ATLFF 2011 - Fall into it

Most people know Curtis Jackson as 50 Cent, a hugely successful rapper with Platinum albums and a humdinger of a survival story that tops even the most hardcore gangsta Rap peers. Yes, he was shot 9 times and got stronger.

What people may not know is how serious Curtis Jackson is at becoming a thespian. Sure, every rapper ACTS, we see them all the time in movie and television. However, most don’t take as much of their budding careers into their own hands the way Jackson does.

In his latest film, 50 Cent transforms his famously buff physique into a frail cancer patient. Losing 60 pounds for the role, photos shocked many when they were released depicting the emaciated Jackson . Such dedication to a role has often been lauded in the past, DeNiro’s famous weight gain for Raging Bull; Christian Bale’s shedding of rough 60 lbs for The Machinist. However, when it came to 50 Cent, there’s always some skepticism to be found. He can’t simply take his work as an actor seriously it seems. He must be pulling a stunt for publicity. It seems like a dangerous way to court publicity for someone who arguably doesn’t need it.

Atlanta filmgoers were able to judge for themselves as the movie in question, Things Fall Apart screened at the Atlanta Film Festival this year. Produced by 50 Cent’s production company Cheetah Vision along with Hannibal Pictures, the film is directed by Mario Van Peeples (New Jack City) and stars Jackson, Ray Liotta, Lynn Whitfield as well a Van Peeples. The story follows a promising college football player who’s struck with tragic circumstances at the height of his collegiate career.

 

I was able to discuss the movie as well as other topics with Hannibal Pictures who produced the film with Cheetah Vision Films.

 

Questions

What drew you in particular to this project?

 

The screenplay was a very touching and powerful script with a challenging role for Curtis. We had recently worked with him and producers Randall Emmett and George Furla on Gun and were looking to collaborate on a new project. Mario Van Peebles is a director and actor whose work we admire, and we knew that he would be able to pull off an emotional and compelling film. Still, it is not exactly our bread and butter; we specialize in selling action thrillers, and if there were any reservations about Things Fall Apart, they derived from the movie falling outside of our particular area of success. When we saw the completed film we knew we had made the right decision to come onboard. We saw the weight that Curtis lost, but that only superficially captures his dedication to the role and to the story. Seeing the film that Mario crafted, the performances – everyone in the movie is on their A game. Lynn Whitfield, Ray Liotta, Tracey Heggins, Cedric Sanders – it was like everyone fed off of Curtis and Mario’s dedication and vision for the film.

Were there any concerns about Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson playing the lead in this film which is a departure from the roles he’s taken on in many of his previous movies?

 

Never. And if there were, Curtis would have erased them, anyway. He’s that confident and that driven, with a tireless and infectious work ethic. Curtis wrote it, produced it, stars in it and largely financed it.

 

Hannibal Pictures is known for it’s ability to make foreign sales, yet Urban films are said to be a hard sell. Was there an element that set this movie apart from most Urban films?

 

Yes, the movie takes place in an urban setting but the setting of a film doesn’t qualify as the film’s genre classification. If the themes are universal, then a movie will translate to wide audience, but – fairly or not -- the “Urban” film label seems designed as a signal to “mainstream” audiences that the movie does not relate to them – it’s a niche term. Things Fall Apart is not a niche movie. It’s a movie about humanity, bravery, honorability and integrity, about a man who, through horrific circumstances, comes to realize that he has not always been the best person he could be and through the dramatic physical transformation will learn and decide to make people around him shine and fulfill their life. Another genre restriction that some have tried to apply to the film is “Sports movie,” when in fact the sport of football functions solely as a metaphor for a personal dream – something that anyone can relate to. The film is a crowd-pleasing inspirational, emotional journey. I think what sets it apart from most films in general is the Curtis’ determination but it goes much deeper than that. When you take Curtis’ character, Deon, out of context, he’s not a great guy. He’s selfish, driven only by his own agenda, and pretty blind to the ways his behavior affects those around him. On the page, this was much more obvious, and it struck me that there was a chance Deon could come across as unlikeable. I thought it was cool that Curtis would write and want to play such a flawed character. One of the things that keeps Deon from being unlikeable is an understated vulnerability – even in the early “top of the world” scenes. But the ultimate reason the movie and the character arc works is because of Mario Van Peebles’ excellent direction. The story is told strictly from Deon’s point of view, a brilliant decision that allows the audience to learn about Deon’s flaws as he discovers them, at the lowest points of his life. Mario’s direction inspires empathy for Deon and reinforces his ultimate redemption.

 

What other projects does Hannibal Pictures have in release or coming soon?

US distributor Anchor Bay will be releasing The Big Bang theatrically in New York and Los Angeles on May 13. The stylistic thriller stars Antonio Banderas as a private eye whose search for a missing woman lands him in hot water with a trio of tough LAPD homicide detectives, played by Thomas Kretschmann, William Fichtner, and Delroy Lindo. It’s a wild, roller-coaster of a movie with great supporting performances from Sam Elliott, Sienna Guillory, Autumn Reeser, and Snoop Dogg – to name a few. We’re very excited about the release and believe it’s Antonio Banderas’ best performance in years. Casino Jack, starring Kevin Spacey in a Golden Globe nominated performance as Jack Abramoff, was just released on DVD by Fox and Hannibal new brand Classics will release Touchback starring Kurt Russell and Brian Presley and Set Up with Bruce Willis, Curtis Jackson and Ryan Philippe. Additionally, we’re always developing new projects such as Sleight of Hand, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, Escobar, Amityville: The Legacy 3D, and Red Squad with great stories and talent while continuing to please audiences all over the World and build our catalogue.

 

More information on Things Fall Apart and other Hannibal Pictures films can be found at www.hannibalpictures.com