Howard followed up a co-starring role in 2004s Ray with a terrific performance in this years indie darling, Crash. Not one to rest on his laurels or to choose the easy path Howard then took the lead in Hustle & Flow, a gritty, unflinching look at life on the streets of Memphis. "Crash" and "Hustle & Flow" have received favorable responses from critics, and Howards performances in both films are earning him much-deserved kudos and recognition.
Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to do a phone interview with Terrence Howard in support of Hustle & Flow and his role in John Singletons Four Brothers. With his name being mentioned more and more frequently as a possible contender for end of the year acting honors, Howards press schedule was jam-packed. Despite the fact he was in the middle of a long days worth of interviews, Howard never once gave me an answer straight out of a press kit and never once gave an answer that didnt sound genuine and honest. Thank you, thank you, thank you Terrence Howard.
Interview with Terrence Howard:
The praise for Hustle & Flow and your performance is so vocal and so positive, were you taken aback a little bit? Were you expecting this kind of reaction from this movie?
No, thats why I was so overwhelmed at Sundance when I saw those people and theyre standing up giving the film the standing ovation. When I saw that, thats you know, that tickled my fancy.
Could you tell while you were filming it that you were working on something special?
No, you cant. Youve got to think we didnt have any playback. We had just a couple million dollars to try and shoot a full film thats written around music. So you know how expensive musicals are and we had to do all that. I worked 18 hour days. I worked only one day that I didnt work on the show in those 26 days. I was in every scene except two scenes in this movie. Every scene with dialogue, except for two, in this movie and I had to carry the dialogue and all that, so I didnt have time. I didnt have time to think about anything we were doing. But what turns out is after you do a hard days work, when you look back at it, its like, Man, we accomplished a lot this day! We did a lot!
Did you feel any extra pressure because you are in every scene and you do have to carry the dialogue?
No. I dont know. Something felt right. Something said, Okay, you know how to do this. I knew I couldnt play around like I used to be able to. Go over one scene and be fine because you only have one scene the next day. Knowing I had to go over nine scenes for a day and get them as good as I possibly could, you know, because we would only have a few takes on each one. Most days we only had two takes and most of the scenes were first takes. So, thats it. You know the responsibility set on your shoulders and you rise to it because this is peoples lives and their money at stake.
Was DJay a tough guy to shake off at the end of the day?
No, because I found beautiful parts of him that I liked, that I wanted to keep, and thats what I focused on.
What did you find beautiful about this character?
In every person we meet theres this little piece of God in them and thats who you talk to. And thats the only person that you allow to talk to you. When something else is speaking, you walk away from that. If its not good, if its not love, you walk away from it.
This movie never glorifies DJays lifestyle
No, because theres no glory in it.
But you also cant make him a guy people arent going to like. We have to connect with him, yet you cant glorify what hes doing. Thats a tough situation to balance.
But you [dont] have to make him. You just have to tell the truth about who he is. Because each and every one of us - like in the film Crash - each and every one of us has both a noble and a demonic side. We both can be the most beautiful and benevolent creatures on the planet, but then theres another side that can be as harsh and as ugly as the darkest thing you could imagine seeing. And thats the part we hide from ourselves and we pretend that nobody else sees that.
DJay was not afraid to show all of his sides. And he needed all of those sides in order to make it through life. Some of us dont have to guard all our sides. It depends upon the environment you grow up in.