Ice Cube and Kevin Hart star in “Ride Along,” the hilarious new action-comedy from Tim Story, the director of the blockbuster comedy “Think Like a Man.” When a fast-talking rookie (Hart) joins his girlfriend’s brother, a hot-tempered veteran cop (Cube), to patrol the streets of Atlanta in order to prove he’s worthy of his sister (Tika Sumpter), he gets more than he bargained for and must survive the most insane 24 hours of his life. Opening January 17th, the film also features John Leguizamo, Bruce McGill, Bryan Callen and Laurence Fishburne.
At the film’s recent press day, the comedy duo gave a very funny and entertaining interview during which they looked back on their successful careers and revealed how they brought the story to life. They discussed their on-screen chemistry together, what they liked most about working with each other, their funniest scenes in the film, the directing process with Story and his great rapport with the actors, their most memorable fight or flight moments in real life, how Sumpter was the perfect casting choice to play the woman at the center of the comedy triangle, and the unforgettable scene when Hart takes his shirt off.
QUESTION: Ice Cube, your career has come so far since you did “F&ck Tha Police.” What are your thoughts when you reflect back on it?
ICE CUBE: It’s been an amazing ride. I always tell people that if you gave me a pen and a piece of paper when I was a teenager and said, “Write out how you’d like your career to go,” I would have probably short changed myself compared to what it’s been for real. I’m just extremely excited about what I’ve accomplished. But also, I feel like I’m young and I have a lot more to offer and a lot more to do. I’m actually restrained a little bit by the process of Hollywood as far as the creative ideas I have. It’s just impossible to do them all. So that’s a little humbling. But I always felt like I would fight through and make sure that I’m always creative.
Q: Can you talk about your chemistry with Kevin? You give him a hard time in this. Was it like that when you were shooting or were you just kidding around?
CUBE: With Kevin, it’s totally different in how we are on screen. Kevin is a pro. He’s one of those guys who’s constantly late. (Laughs) No, I’m just kidding. He’s one of those who’s always on point and ready. He’s cool because he’ll make the crew laugh but also make the camera laugh, too, and a lot of guys can’t do that. Some comedians I’ve had to pull to the side and say, “You’re making the crew crack up, but when we’re shooting you ain’t got no energy. What the fuck!? Sit down in between takes and save your energy.” He’s not like that. He’s an energizer bunny. I don’t know if it’s coffee or cocaine or what it is, but he’s an energizer bunny. He’s always on and it’s good. It’s fun. It’s his personality. It’s not an act. It’s a great thing to work with somebody that’s such a pro. I have fun.
Q: You just finished another cop movie, “22 Jump Street,” with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill. What was it like working with the police in that one?
Now, with “22 Jump Street,” it was crazy the way they filmed. They don’t have to cut nowadays. That digital camera just rolls and rolls. So we were doing sometimes 12-minute takes and it was like, “Just keep going. Keep going. Say this. Do this.” It was just a crazy process.
KEVIN HART: He doesn’t know his lines.
CUBE: I went to the L.A. Unified School District so my reading is a little off.
Q: You guys have such amazing chemistry on screen. What did you each like most about working with the other?
HART: (to Ice Cube) I’ve got nothing but good to say about you, sir. What do we like about each other? Well, first of all, there’s definitely a mutual respect. Whether his is greater or mine was greater, it didn’t really matter, because when you come in and you’re aware of what a person has done, I think your level of excitement grows. So, knowing Cube’s background and knowing the comedic career that he’s launched, and him now going into producing and directing and writing so much stuff, just as a man who has taken his occupation seriously and opened up so many doors, I was excited. After meeting him and really talking and vibing with him about the project and seeing his passion, I grew more excited. Once we got on set, we both already had the same agenda which was to knock this movie out of the damn park and make sure we both bring our “A” game in. It takes a true professional to allow somebody like myself to come in and have the opportunity to be funny and riff and do all those things, and Cube didn’t mind doing that. That’s a major thing because you’ve got so many people that would try to battle with the funny and go off Kev’s improv and let me improv, too. But Cube did a great job of playing his lane and setting me up to win. I take my hat off to him for that. It’s a different level of respect that I have for guys like that.
CUBE: In working with Kevin, it’s been fun just seeing such a pro get busy, not only on set but in meetings, and just how he makes everybody feel good. He makes everybody feel part of the process. I haven’t seen somebody come in a scene since Eddie Murphy like Kevin. Kevin can come in and just basically hold you hostage until he wants to let you go. Everybody is captivated. It’s just an amazing talent. It’s magical to see somebody go there and they’re able to really capture all audiences with it, not just the hood audience, but everywhere else that exists in the world. Those other instances, too.
HART: All other hoods.
CUBE: All the hoods. The Chinese hoods, the African hoods, the Israeli hoods. He can get everybody into it.
Q: You guys were so funny in this. What was the funniest scene the two of you shot together or the most stand out moment?
HART: Most stand out moment? For me, first of all, there are so many in the movie. We have so many laugh out loud moments in this film. But I think my favorite has to be the warehouse where I’m…
CUBE: When you slapped the shit out of me?
HART: When I slapped you and when I stuck you with the knife. The reason why was because that was so fun. We were there and those were some long days, and he just had to sit in the chair all day because Cube didn’t have a lot of activity to do. It was all me running around. But there’s one moment where I stick him with the knife and we’re going back and forth. We were literally laughing out loud so much during that take. So that’s my favorite, the warehouse.
CUBE: I liked the gun range scene. That was funny.
HART: They put my little ass in that box so many times. “Again! Can we get Kevin in the box again?” (Laughs)
CUBE: And I like the strip club scene. It was funny as hell because of all the circumstances involved.
HART: The Banner scene with David when I’m chasing him and I accidentally shoot him. That shit was funny, too.
CUBE: Oh yeah, that was kinda crazy. It’s just a great movie. It’s a fun ride. The title is “Ride Along” and the audiences really want to be in that back seat. You know what I mean? They really want to ride along and see how James can torture Ben and how Ben is resisting. Ben is like a cockroach. He won’t die. He won’t go away. He won’t quit. He keeps coming back.
HART: I think cockroach is a little extreme.
CUBE: (Laughs) But he keeps coming back. It’s dope in how the gaming aspect of it helps in real life which was a cool twist because every gamer that’s playing Call of Duty or whatever thinks if they was in Fallujah that they can really get down like this. So, it’s cool to see somebody that’s really actually trying to apply it and it’s kinda funny.
Q: The movie was funny but it did have some serious overtones, too. How much control did you guys have implementing that in the script?
CUBE: What serious part of the movie?
HART: The hospital scene when you were talking about where you came from.
CUBE: Oh yeah. Well, I think in a great comedy you have to have those moments sprinkled out. Not too many. But I think those moments help you to ground the comedy a little bit, so it’s not just whacky. You don’t want to be “Naked Gun” whacky.
HART: All over the place.
CUBE: You want to be grounded in reality. At certain points in the movie, you’ve got to ground it.
HART: I think that was also huge with our conversations in the beginning before we started the film. Cube was very vocal in saying, “Look, I want this movie to be different. I want it to be believable. I want you to understand these guys on this journey, but everything has to make sense.” So, within the original script, the pieces were already there, but it was just about us tightening it and making it our own. He did a really good job of making sure that Tim, myself, Cube and Will Packer were all on the same pages with what changes we felt like we needed to make. And the biggest thing he said was grounding it. For me, he’ll tell you that’s the question I asked on set every day to Tim, “Hey, make sure I’m not all over the place with my levels.” I want to be funny, but it has to be a believable funny, because if I’m just screaming all the time with my hands up, I come out and I look like a cartoon at the end of it. But I feel like you really tracked both of our characters because the story that’s laid out you get. From his moment at the hospital where he feels he’s really confiding and he’s telling me some stuff that I don’t know, from my moment where we’re outside of the cop car at the strip club and I’m like, “You don’t even know me. Why do you not like me?” You see these vulnerable moments of the character, and I think it really elevates the material.
Q: You guys both had the chance to work with Tim Story on previous projects although very different from the action comedy that this movie is. How was the experience different working with him on this project?
CUBE: I don’t know how Tim Story gets anything done. He’s so laid back. It’s like he’s in total control of the set but his posture is almost like he’s been invited, like he’s somebody’s friend hanging around. He’s so relaxed and he’s so easy to work with. He knows exactly what he wants. Even when I first worked with him on “Barbershop,” that first week was rough. We had 17-18 hour days because he knew what he wanted. He just didn’t know how long it was going to take to get what he wanted. But now he’s quick and fast, and Will Packer is back there helping him basically guide the ship. It’s a pleasure. I can’t wait to work with him again.
HART: Tim is a different level of professional as well, man. Not only is he easy to work with, but Tim is greedy as hell. I’ve never seen a person eat and work throughout the damned day.
CUBE: He eats a lot!
HART: Like there was never a time… We went through a phase. Remember, I was just smacking shit out of his hand. I would wait for him to get something and get down to his last few pieces and just smack it out of his hand because he just ate. But the good thing about Tim is he literally has such a great rapport with his actors. And that’s not just me and Cube. That’s going down the list of everybody that was in this film. The most important thing for a director is to be able to communicate. But when you communicate comfortably, regardless of what you’re saying, it can always be processed. So regardless if it was him critiquing you and telling you why he didn’t want this, it came off so comfortably to where it was, “Okay, Tim, I’ll do this” or “Hey Tim, how was that one? How do you feel about that one?” or “Tim, do you mind if me and Cube try to play on this one a little bit?” and he’d go, “Wait a second, guys. Let’s get one more the way I want it and then we’ll let you guys go and play.” But it was such a great rapport that everybody was comfortable on the set. You have to credit your director for that, because if he’s high strung and you see a vein in the middle of his damn head every day and he’s always taking his hat off looking at the time, then this movie ain’t right. Something ain’t going right. And we never had that feeling ever.
Q: There are a lot of likeable parts in the movie where you’re seeking approval and respect from Ice Cube’s character, James. In real life in Hollywood, when did you know you’d made it or did you have something you had to do to prove that you could make it in this career?
HART: I still don’t know I made it. I think the minute I think about it is the minute I’m going to go crazy. I don’t like addressing it. It’s a dream to me. That’s why I don’t go to sleep. I’m afraid if I close my eyes, I’m going to wake up and this shit’s gonna be over. So I just stay up all the time.
CUBE: I guess to myself more than anybody because I don’t really have anybody that I had to prove it to. My parents were extra supportive of me getting into hip hop.
HART: Really? The N.W.A. thing? They was behind you?
CUBE: They were totally behind it.
HART: “F&ck Tha Police”? Your mom was?
CUBE: She said, “Why you gotta talk like that?” But she knew it was positive hanging out with Dre than hanging out with the neighborhood Crips that was around my neighborhood. They were supportive from day one. Once you’ve got mom and pop’s support, my brothers and sisters were still like, “Man, what you doing? Who do you think you are? The Fat Boys? Run–D.M.C.?” It took them awhile. It took a couple of checks to come in to let me roll up in something new for them to respect me.
HART: I don’t want to prove nobody wrong, but I’ll tell you my mom passed away about six years ago, but she was definitely the most supportive person in the start of my career when I wanted to do what I wanted to do. But in the same way, my brother and my dad, they were like, “What the fuck are you doing, man? The comedy thing, Kevin, is just stupid.” But once something real happened, my brother was like, “You are right!” Everything changed after a while once the checks started coming in.
CUBE: When the checks come in, everything changes.
HART: Everybody respects you.
CUBE: You could be selling dope. When the money comes in, everybody’s like, “Oh, okay, dude! Nice TV.” “Going to work!”
Q: Kevin, you have that great fight or flight moment when Cube scares the hell out of you. I’m curious if you guys have any stories from your personal life when maybe you’ve been scared and a little later you were embarrassed by your reaction?
HART: Hell yes! I had tons of those. I’ve pushed several women in front of violent situations. Do you think that was the first time I was throwing a woman in front of a car? No. My rule is: save myself first. There was one incident at a movie theater where my girl just got mad at these guys because they were talking behind us. It was like three guys. And I never looked back there. She was like, “Would you all just shut up!” I just got up and moved three rows in front of her, and I looked back, and she said, “What you doing?” I said, “You’d better get up here.” I don’t play the fighting game so that was definitely something that was pulled from a real life experience.
CUBE: When we first started to do our thing, me and Dre, we actually went and picked up this girl that was singing for us. As I got up from the front seat to the back seat, we saw some youngsters walking by. They was going to school though, so we didn’t pay no attention. And then, when they got a few houses down, they started shooting at us. So I’m yelling, “Drive! Drive!” and Dre’s looking and I’m like, “What the fuck are you looking at?” He’s looking in the rear view mirror to make sure they were shooting at us. “Drive, motherfucker! Please!”
HART: As you can tell, there’s two different realms of growing up with me and Cube. There’s two different stories. I was at a movie theater. Cube apparently was in the most violent situation ever. That story just took a turn for the worst out of nowhere. (Laughs) Yeah, they was school kids and they just started shooting. Motherfuckers trying to kill us!
CUBE: The little bastards!
HART: Yeah. We made it out though. It was cool.
Q: How was it to work with Tika Sumpter who plays Ben’s girlfriend in the movie?
HART: Tika’s great, man. Tika’s gonna do big things. She’s a young actress with such a good head on her shoulders and she’s good. Our chemistry was as well. She shines on camera. She looks amazing on camera. I felt that casting her was perfect because you believed the relationship and even the brother/sister connection that she and James had you believe. So I don’t think they could have cast a better person for that role. She fit the age bracket, the look. Everything about her was perfect for it. That was definitely a good call. It was brought up by Tim and Will and when they brought it to me I automatically was like, “Yes. That’s great.”
CUBE: I think she was definitely great casting. After you look at us on the screen for so long, you can’t wait to see Tika. After looking at Kevin Hart for 90 minutes, you have to see Tika every now and then. I think she did a great job.
HART: Can you tell them about what happens at 29 minutes and 56 seconds into the film or do you want me to tell them?
CUBE: You talking about your shirt off scene shit?
HART: Yeah. I have a scene with my shirt off in this film that I feel like is going to change my career. I feel like this is what people have wanted to see for some time now. And at 29 minutes and 56 seconds is when it happens. So if you guys want to circle that in whatever you’re writing down to make people aware. It’s just that everything about that says action.