“This isn’t a rap film, this is a film about brothers…” - hmv.com talks to Straight Outta Compton star Corey Hawkins
Straight Outta Compton didn’t have blockbuster written all over it, but it turned out to be one of the summer’s smash-hits. The story of iconic rap group N.W.A and how its members Ice Cube, Dr Dre, MC Ren, Eazy-E and DJ Yella went from broke street rappers to multi-platinum selling hip-hop stars, it wowed fans and critics alike.
The movie is released on DVD, Blu-Ray and hmv exclusive Blu-Ray Steelbook on Monday (January 11th) and is available to pre-order on the right-hand side of the page. To celebrate its release, we chatted with star Corey Hawkins, who plays Dr Dre in the movie. We spoke about stepping into Dr Dre’s enormous shoes, whether he thinks a Straight Outta Compton sequel is on the cards and why he ran a mile when he was first approached about the role...
When did you first get approached about this role?
“I was approached maybe three months before we started shooting. They’d been doing casting calls for a while and I’d heard about it, but when my agent called and said they wanted to see me for it, I just ran the other way!”
“I was nervous about taking on a role like this, I was nervous about owning this role and this huge legacy you have to take on. I gave it some thought and I figured although there were so many reasons to be nervous about doing it, there were as many reasons to get excited about doing it.”
So did you audition after that?
“I got the call to go in and my agent told me and I just told him I wasn’t going. I told him ‘I don’t look like Dre, I don’t sound like him, nobody stops me and ever says ‘Hey you know you look like Dr Dre’, it doesn’t happen’. Also I’m an N.W.A. fan, I wanted them to get this right and I don’t think I’m him.”
“Then the casting director asked me to come in and I was that sure that I wasn’t right that I didn’t go in, so my agent called and I told him I didn’t want to do it. In the end we talked and I put myself on tape and then I got to chat with Gary and it went well. Then I went to LA and met Jason and O’Shea and then I knew this was really going to work.”
How did you go about researching the role? Dre’s quite a private guy isn’t he, he doesn’t do many interviews...
“When he was younger he did a lot of interviews, but now he’s a real family man. He’s a very private person, which I relate to because that’s how I am, I like my work to speak for me and he’s in that mould. I didn’t know too much about him, I loved finding out what made him tick, we all know what’s he achieved, whom he’s worked with, but I didn’t know the man and that’s what makes this film so special. This isn’t a rap film, this is a film about brothers. Whether you’re white, black, whatever, this is a film we can all relate to, it goes way beyond hip-hop.”
Did you get to hang out with him much?
“I could pick up my phone and I could call him, I had him on speed dial, we talked for hours and hours, I spoke to his family, his wife, his friends, I was surprised at how open he was, I got everything I needed.”
It looks like it was a lot of fun to make...
“Absolutely, you can feel the energy we had on set in the film, it was a surreal movie to make, I’m not sure I’ll ever replicate it. Every single day we worked hard!”
Were you surprised by the film’s performance? Is it fair to call it a surprise hit?
“I don’t know if I was surprised, I knew there would be a core group of fans who would appreciate it, but I don’t know if I knew it’d go so far and get worldwide attention. I live in New York and I still take the train, but it’s getting harder for me to walk down the street now without being stopped, I feel like I’ve been catapulted to a different level. I think people appreciate that we did the story right.”
There’s been plenty of talk of a sequel, do you think that’s on the cards?
“I don’t know. There’s been a lot of talk about a sequel and if F. Gary Gray and Dr Dre and Ice Cube and everybody wanted to sit down and talk about a sequel I’d be there, but I think it’d be hard to do a sequel because Eazy-E isn’t there and that was the whole point of this movie. I don’t know if you can replicate success, movies like this come around once in a blue moon and I think it’d be really hard to top it. We’re all perfectionists, Dr Dre is, Cube is, I am, Gary is, if it’s not going to be right then I don’t think we’ll do it.”
Finally what are you up to next?
“Before Compton came out I booked The Walking Dead and doing that has been incredible. Right now I’m working on Kong: Skull Island and we’re about to head off to Hawaii, that’s out next year.”
Straight Outta Compton is released on DVD, Blu-Ray and hmv exclusive Blu-Ray Steelbook on Monday (January 11th). You can pre-order it on the right-hand side of the page.