In da movies: 21 questions with 50 Cent
Rappers, unlike any other type of musicians, are free to sell out. Sure, it might not mean throwing their value system out the window, but rap stars can, in an unprecedented manner, start a clothing line, adopt a brand of shoes or sport their “bling” as a badge of honour. When rap-phenomenon Curtis “Fitty Cent” Jackson decided to delve into the world of film with the semi-autobiographical Get Rich or Die Tryin‘, however, the success of such a project wasn’t as guaranteed as that of his G-Unit clothing line.
The undertaking would be haunted by such spectacular failures as Mariah Carey’s Glitter, but for Fitty, film success amounted to letting the filmmakers do their job, and, for the first-time actor, being himself to the best of his abilities.
“For me, I’m focused on doing a good job,” says Fitty. “You see a lot of successful musicians go to make a movie and not be successful at creating a good film. So, you know, I just dealt with that pressure by staying focused on each one of the shots, because I wanted to make sure I gave my best possible performance.”
Fitty’s concerns about musicians making movies are indeed well founded. For every Ice Cube and Eminem that manages to star in a successful film, there are twice as many musicians that manage to create movies that not only tank at the box office, but also pull down careers as they sink. With Fitty’s already established popularity in mainstream music, and veteran filmmaker Jim Sheridan (In America, My Left Foot) directing the effort, the rap star’s main concern wasn’t producing a decent film, but making those moviegoers that are uninterested in rap interested in watching a movie based on his life.
“You become typecast by music—people decide who you are based on your hits, and for me it hasn’t even been my hit record,” asserts Fitty, acknowledging that potential audience members will likely have preconceived notions of him. “It has been what journalists and other media outlets have reported about me. Some of it’s accurate, but other stuff is fabricated to generate the interest of the public. They have to give you a touch of the real before they give you the fake, so that you believe it.”
Fitty’s biggest beef with the press—aside from supposed inaccuracies in reporting—is that what tends to get focused on isn’t necessarily his music or the true facts of his life, but events that glamorize the rap lifestyle and are easy for the press to latch onto and rehash over and over. Although Get Rich or Die Tryin‘ addresses many of the rumours, Fitty hopes that it will clear up—and not just perpetuate—many of the misconceptions about him.
“You know, I become human though this film,” says Fitty in a moment of reflection. “The publications and other media outlets have a field day with the negative things, because it totally occupies people entertainment-wise. They talk about me being shot—I had to answer those questions up to this point because they’re still being intrigued by it, but there’s people where I come from that have been shot more times than me, and that means nothing to the rest of the world. They call [me] gangsta rap, but I ain’t never been in no gang.”
Despite his own displeasure with amount of focus the most controversial parts of his life receive, Fitty admits that reenacting those moments on film—even in slightly altered versions—was an emotionally tasking process. Surprisingly, the scene that rattled this seemingly stone-cold rapper the most wasn’t in fact the event that many would naturally assume to be the most traumatic moment of his life.
“It was therapeutic at points,” says Fitty. “People always point to me getting shot, but that didn’t bother me as much, because we changed it a little bit—I get shot in the film, but I’m not in a car. In [reality], I got shot in a car. The actual scene that was kind of eery for me was the operating-room scene. I spent eight hours with actors over me playing surgeons, and [although] I had been in that actual place, I was unconscious, so it was a whole ’nother vibe. When I got up and we were done, I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone—I just went straight back to my trailer and relaxed.”
With any luck, Get Rich or Die Tryin‘ will prove not to be a self-serving memoir, but rather a testament to Fitty’s pre-rap days and introduction into the industry. For all of the controversy that has surrounded him, Fitty hopes that part of his story can be put right in the eyes of the public, but even if nothing changes, he knows that criticism comes with being a public figure.
“When you come into the public eye, you become public property, so you’re subjected to all kinds of things. There is a certain standard placed on music as an art form that isn’t placed on any other form of entertainment, and because I’m coming from music, they say I’m promoting violence directly. You’ve got to learn how to take it for what it is—you’ve got to accept it. There’s no need to get worked up and upset about it.”