How seriously is Hollywood taking Angelina Jolie’s writing and directing debut? In addition to critical praise she’s already scored a Golden Globe nomination for “In the Land of Blood and Honey,” her uncompromising story of love and loss during the Bosnian War. I found out why the cast knew Jolie was on her way to new success.
Common’s success as both a Grammy winning hip-hop artist and an actor who’s serious about his performances, come together this Sunday, December 18th on AMC’s “Hell on Wheels” [10 pm ET/PT]. His new music video “Celebrate” from his ninth album “The Dreamer, The Believer” will get its world premiere on the Civil War series in which Common plays Elam Ferguson, a freed slave trying to find true freedom while working on the transcontinental railroad. I wanted to find out what’s driving him to success in two very different and demanding arenas of show business.
Q: Some people were surprised when you put yourself out front as an actor after making it to the top as a rapper. Wasn’t music enough?
Common: I love my music. But, I just had creative energy that I wanted to express in new ways. When I started acting, hip hop was feeling a little limited to me. I decided to take a class. And, from the first day I went, I just loved it. I felt like, ‘Man, this is a great way for me to be an artist and express myself and I’m passionate about it.
Q: What was the attraction of acting?
C: I found that acting has helped me as an artist to be more open and like, not be afraid. That’s what you experience in the process of acting. When I’d rap, I’d be trying to make sure the emotion was coming through, like the way you would as a character you’re playing. You make sure that you’re “in the moment,” as they say. When you’re recording, when you’re rapping, it’s like, sometimes, you just get into the grove and you’re just saying the raps over and over without all the emotion. But, if you stay in the moment, then people are going to feel that. So I think that’s how acting has helped.
Q: “Hell on Wheels” is an action western that deals with social issues. That seems to be a good fit for you.
C: What intrigues me the most about our series is that the relationship between races isn’t all just black and white. It’s about human beings. I thought, like, “Man, I didn’t even think black and white people related that way during those times.” I think we have a tendency to be politically correct all the time and it’s like we’re hiding what’s the truth. So this truth is being put out there on “Hell on Wheels.” And, as they say, “The truth will set you free.” That’s the most interesting part of it for me, which is not to say I don’t have fun running around with guns and riding horses and stuff.
Q: Six-shooters and men on horses are a long way from your childhood, aren’t they?
C: I didn’t watch a lot of Westerns growing up. So when I read the first script for “Hell on Wheels” I was just thinking about the great characters that are in the series. But, when we ride up on horses and there’s a hero shot, I’m thinking, “Man, wait ‘til the people I grew up with on the streets of Chicago see this.”
Q: Is your role in “Hell on Wheels” echoing some of what you’ve expressed in your music?
C: Absolutely. I feel a true responsibility to be as truthful as I can to what black Americans were at that time. We suffered a lot of things, and we also prevailed in a lot of ways. So sometimes after filming, you go home and feel emotionally drained because you just had some scenes that really dealt with some powerful things. You think of our forefathers who built this country, whatever nationality they were, and the things that they went through. It can weigh on you, but it’s also liberating.
Q: What do you expect as you continue to combine two careers?
C: With acting and music it’s always going to be ebb, flow, or whatever they call it, valleys and peaks. I know that from being in the music industry. So I’m taking my acting success and being grateful. But, I feel like I have a long way to go.
Hollywood is boiling and buzzing about the Golden Globe nominations. There are so many huge box-office stars on the list that angry doubts have been stirred by the notion that this is more of a “cast list” for the Golden Globes broadcast than a roster of deserved artists. My take: Just because your movies make money and you make tabloid headlines doesn’t mean that you can’t do great work on film. Brad Pitt did two performances that are more than award worthy. His other half Angelina Jolie got nominated for her film,
“In The Land of Blood and Honey.” I can tell you it’s a fine achievement. George Clooney has been headed for critics nods and awards lists since the very first screening of “The Descendants” at a festival. Leonardo did not play it safe and it sure took a lot more than make-up to create his performance in “J. Edgar.” Ryan Gosling has two nominations. Can you think of a wider range than his comedy and “The Ides of March”? Antonio Banderas is nominated for both the lightest movie he’s ever made, “Puss in Boots,” and the darkest, for his stunning performance in “The Skin I Live In.” These are just a few examples of A-listers doing A+ work.
On to the Oscars — the most prestigious of all awards — and I guarantee there will be plenty of griping about who gets on the list and who, as Hollywood likes to say, gets “snubbed.”
The Lady Gaga display of merchandise at Barney’s in New York is so great. Full of wonder, and joy, and people not knowing where to look first. I love when things are “produced” wonderfully…every bit of the display is a delightful surprise. And money to charity too! I forgive Gaga for every tacky nipple display and just want to love her and the scene she created. And—I confess, I will now be sporting Lady Gaga sunglasses.
Angelina Jolie reveals that it was Brad Pitt that gave her the strength to make her writing/directing debut with the powerful “In the Land of Blood and Honey” — recreating the killing, torture and rape during the Bosnian conflict.