Interview: Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson "Get Rich or Die Tryin'"

Interview: Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson
"Get Rich or Die Tryin'"
Posted: Tuesday, November 8th 2005 12:31PM
Author: Garth Franklin
Location: New York, NY

Born in Queens during the late '70s, Curtis Jackson famously went it alone when his single mother was found dead under mysterious circumstances before he could hit his teens. The orphaned youth was taken in by his grandparents, who provided for him but not enough that the man didn't end up amassing both a small not so honourably earned fortune and a lengthy rap sheet. The birth of his son though changed his outlook on life, and Jackson began to pursue rap seriously. He signed with JMJ, the label of Run DMC DJ Jam Master Jay and began learning his trade under the name '50 Cent'.

In "Get Rich or Die Tryin", Jackson plays the role of Marcus, a drug dealer who was shot nine times and left for dead, but resurrected to become a successful hip hop artist. A parallel with his real life? The man himself spoke about both to us in New York recently:

Question: Did this film feel like therapy for you to relive your life again?

50 Cent: It was therapeutic. There were things in my life that I hadn't put a lot of thought into. The film forces you to go back to certain places in order to make reference to the emotion, which you are supposed to display on actual screen. Some people think it should be easier to play a role based on your actual experiences but I think it might be more difficult because sure you have to research and figure out how your character would react to certain things and having yourself to make reference to; once you get yourself in that mood, there's so much of you to judge in character, when you get to that point it's difficult to get out of it and go to the next thing because it's a real experience.

Question: Although the film is a fictional story, how much of your life is in the film?

50 Cent: It's about 75% actual.

Question: Is there anything that isn't true?

50 Cent: Not really because in working with Terry Winters, I had the option to change things. What's fictional is the part where I'm so much in search for my father. I got to the end of the film early in my life and I felt like I'm supposed to be able to do that without that assistance at this point. The things that my father would have been able to help me at probably would have been when I made the decision to go out and hustle. Because he wasn't physically present to provide guidance at that point, I don't think it's necessary at this point. I'm a grown man now.

Question: There's a line in the film that's not meant to be funny when the guy who shoots your character comments, "I shot him nine times." That scene is about something that actually took place in your life and folks are laughing. How do you feel about that scene?

50 Cent: It's something to smile about once you get past it. For me, I lost something before I got shot and I found out afterwards. My grandparents had raised me Baptist and bringing up religion in any form would be a good way to run me out the room. My lifestyle wasn't coinciding with the religious beliefs I was raised, the way I was raised to believe; so after being shot nine times, having things happen to you so don't have to answer to the questions leads you to believe in the higher power at that point.

Question: How do you feel about your performance?

50 Cent: I feel great about it. I know that it's not 50 Cent up there. Me as a writer, I haven't shown many dimensions as I show in the actual film. They haven't seen me in vulnerable points. I'm usually aggressive. Hip-hop is aggressive; the nature of it, the battling and stuff like that so you don't get a chance to show those characters, that portion of you.

Question: What was harder, being naked in the love scene or being naked during the bathroom scene when you are being attacked?

50 Cent: The bathroom scene. Being naked with a woman is better than being naked with five men. (laughs) You know what I mean? We were supposed to shoot the scene above the waist and they had us put on these biker shorts that was exactly the same color as our skin and we went and got in the water and what happened is even if the fabric was matching your skin complexion, once it gets wet, it gets darker and changes. Jim was like, "This is not going to work." And he said to me, "You think you can take it off?" I was like, "You gotta be kidding me, right?" He then said, "Listen, if you do it, everybody would do it."

Question: Were you driven by money?

50 Cent: Well, when you grow up without finances, finances seem like the answer to all you problems. It's not until acquire it, that you realize that there are always obstacles in life. Your argument between you and your girlfriend could stem from bills or her deciding to buy shoes when you don't think it was the right time to do that because with finances, if you are rich, you don't have those arguments.

Question: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you?

50 Cent: That I have bad intentions. Just telling the truth makes me the worst person that they have seen so far. If you look at a newspaper and all the things that they show you, they choose what to show you everyday. If I could just take one week and pick the two hospitals in my neighborhood and keep track of everyone who comes in with gun shot wounds or stab wounds or any type of violent crime, you will understand why music is so aggressive.

Question: If you couldn't play the role of Marcus, what other actor do you think could have played the part and why?

50 Cent: Jamie Foxx. I've met him and I think he's cool, but I would want him to spend time with me so he understands the actual role he would be walking into.

Question: How was working with Terrence (Howard)?

50 Cent: Terrence is also incredible, but don't tell him cause his head would get big. (Laughs) He's exciting to work with. I think he has a lot of information people don't know.

Question: How do you balance being a gangster and a rapper?

50 Cent: When I'm writing my music, I'm writing from Curtis Jackson's perspective and in the film, if the dialogue says I'm a gangster, then I'm a gangster. There are points that I'm saying and doing things in the film that I wouldn't do. If not, then I wouldn't be acting at all. There's a scene in the film where I tell my grandparents that it's their fault, well, in my head, I felt like it was their fault. If I didn't have to hide the gun, then I wouldn't have misplaced it in the wrong place and brought it to school and got caught, but I would never say those things to my grandparents because I was raised to respect my elders.

Question: What about the soundtrack?

50 Cent: The soundtrack is great. I actually took concepts for the records from the scenes. I didn't just go ahead and write what I wanted to write just to make a good record. The overall mood of the film and the actual title I had for it before "Get Rich or Die Tryin" was "Hustler's Ambition" and we ended up not using it because of Terrence Howard's Hustle and Flow, and we went with the current title. There's a scene in the film with the younger version of my character is looking through a storefront at sneakers. At the point, he's window shopping. I based the song, "Window Shopping" based on that. I just didn't write it from the artist's perspective. I wrote it from 50 Cent's perspective.

In Get Rich or Die Tryin', rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson presents himself as a rap superhero, encased in muscular flesh like armor, his face impassive as a mask, reaching out to destroy his enemies with his unique talent. The plot, though based on Jackson's life, is standard--a gangster breaks from his youthful life of crime to triumph as a rapper--but there's vitality in the details: Jackson's girlfriend helps him pull free the wires holding his jaw shut when he's recovered from being shot in the face; a startling, brutal fight by naked men in a prison shower. Jackson even has his comic-book moment of transformation when a razor blade is thrown into his cell, encouraging him to kill himself; instead, he uses it to carve his rhymes into the walls. Unfortunately, as an actor Jackson only has two sides, gangster hard or oddly childlike and vulnerable. This second aspect falls away from the movie as Jackson assumes power, leaving only the cold, impassive face of a tough guy. That's the fate of superheroes too--they become the mask they present to the world, which is both their dream and their fate. Terrence Howard (Crash, Hustle & Flow) livens things up as a volatile prison friend. Also featuring Bill Duke (Predator) as a raspy ganglord and Joy Bryant (Honey) as Jackson's girlfriend. Capably directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In America).

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