Some have compared Slim Shady, the actor, to James Dean . . . others to Madonna

Hollywood exploiting the popularity of non-actors. specifically singers. There has. after all. been a long history of musicians swapping the mic for the big screen. a tradition started in earnest by Frank Sinatra. Dean Martin and Elvis. In all the years of musicians making movies. the assumption by studio bosses has always been that if an artist can sell shed- loads of Cl)s. their presence in a film will guarantee a substantial box office draw. The huge success of hip hop in recent years and its specific appeal to a predominantly white. middle-class American teenage demographic has not therefore gone unnoticed by Hollywood execs. Hence the steady slew of rappers who‘ve gone from keeping it real to keeping it reel.

Godfather of gangsta rap. Ice T. was the first to make the jump from hip hop to Hollywood. starring in body-popping classics Brt‘(ll\'(l(lll('(’ and Breaktlanee 2: Ifleetrie Bougalm}. Although limited in his acting range the man can‘t smile he’s achieved a certain success in a string of films including New Jack City. Tank Girl and Trespass. The latter also starred Ice Cube who went from producing cheerful tunes such as ‘Fuck tha Police~ with his band NWA to forming his own film production company. Cube Vision. writing. producing and starring in the trilogy of Friday films and gaining critical acclaim for his roles in Three Kings and recent US box office smash. Barbershop. ()n the whole though. most rap stars are relegated to bit pans and cameos. Which is where they belong according to successful black actor. Samuel 1. Jackson.

Having starred in four films with rap stars (Tupac Shakur in Juiee. Ll. (‘ool J in Deep Blue Sea. Busta Rhymes in Shaft and live in .va). Jackson recently spoke out against the pervasive trend of rap stars making movies. ‘To take people from the music world and give them the same kind of credibility and weight that you give me. Morgan Freeman.

Laurence Fishburne or Forest Whitaker. that’s like an aberration to me you just can‘t do that.’ he said. adding that ‘it's not my job to lend credibility to so-and-so rapper who‘s just coming into the business.‘

It‘s a fair point. as illustrated by Eminem getting top billing in 8 Mile over Academy Award wining actress Kim Basinger. What’s more. as Jackson went on to argue. these untrained actors are taking roles that would otherwise go to professionals: ‘I know there's some young actor sitting in New York or LA.‘ he says. ‘who's spent half of his life leaming how to act but isn‘t going to get his opportunity because of some actor who‘s been created —- and you can use the word "actor" loosely.~

And Jackson‘s not the only one to voice his disapproval. Hip hop duo Maddwest's recent single ‘Playa Hata Degree‘ featured the lyrics: ‘1 hate all these rappers in movies that shouldn‘t be actin‘llixcept for Will Smith. and that cat shouldn‘t be rappin’.‘

Again. fair point but as long as the appearance of a platinum-album selling artist ensures some degree of box office success. rap stars will continue their raid on Hollywood. Still to come we have Ja Rule (Fast and the Furious 2) Coolio (Daredevil). Method Man (How High) and Nelly (Snipes) breaking onto the big screen and perhaps more interestingly. two projects that plan to combine the singing and acting talents of hip hop‘s foremost performers. The first is a hip-hop version of the Wizard of 0:. slated to star Queen Latifah as the Good Witch and Busta Rhymes as the Cowardly Lion and the second is Carmen: A Hip-Hapera. including performances from Beyoncé Knowles and Bow Wow. Somehow I think we can count on liminem appearing in neither.

8 Mile goes on general release from Fri 17 Jan.


HS- 30 Jan 9003 THE LIST 15