CS Interview: Ice Cube on his new comedy Fist Fight
Fights between teenagers in the schoolyard is nothing new, in real life or onscreen, but what if it were two teachers who duked it out surrounded by a mob of students egging them on? That’s the premise of Fist Fight, the new comedy starring Ice Cube and Charlie Day.
In Fist Fight, opening in theaters this Friday, February 17, Charlie Day’s Mr. Campbell inadvertently gets Ice Cube’s intimidating Mr. Strickland fired. So, amid the chaos of senior prank day, Mr. Strickland challenges the mild-mannered English teacher to a fight.
The film is produced by Shawn Levy, mostly known for his resume full of family-friendly comedies, though recently his production company has branched out with R-rated comedic fare like December’s Why Him? and sci-fi, including 2016 successes Arrival and Stranger Things.
Ice Cube spoke with ComingSoon.net about working with Levy, revealed the movie magic behind filming taking an ax to a student’s desk, and he told us the less-than-thrilled reaction any teachers in the audience will have to Fist Fight.
ComingSoon.net: Firstly, crucial question for you: Who would win in a fight, your Mr. Strickland or Mr. Strickland of Hill Valley High School?
Ice Cube: From “Back to the Future”? Oh, wow. I’d whop him up, without a doubt.
CS: The whole movie is leading up to a fight. So did you feel the pressure to deliver once you got to the fight?
Ice Cube: Yeah, it was a lot of pressure to make sure that the fight was epic and that we weren’t just doing this funny movie that has a little blip of a fight. Richie [Keen] wanted to shoot the longest fight ever. I think we pulled it off ’cause it’s pretty long. We shot for about eight days. It came out pretty good.
CS: Did you get any ax-wielding lessons for this movie?
Ice Cube: [Laughs] No, no ax-wielding lessons. I’ve swung an ax or two. It’s heavy. They bring in a fake rubber ax. You work with that for a while, and when it’s time to shoot a close up, you bring in the real deal. But it’s heavy, will make you sweat.
CS: When you have a movie that takes place pretty much all in one day, does that change your approach to your performance compared to when you have a movie that takes place over several days or months or years?
Ice Cube: Yeah, it does. I’m always conscious of timelines and things like that, because you want your character to grow. You are working on art, in some ways, and you want to make sure that you complete the art. And you’re shooting out of order. I just try to keep ahold of that continuity, ’cause I think it just makes you a better actor.
CS: At the press screening for this, there was a young teenager who said this is his first R-rated movie he’s seen — at least he said it was, maybe because he was sitting right next to his dad, maybe not. But it gets you thinking that Fist Fight could be someone’s first R-rated movie.
Ice Cube: Hey, I grew up on “Meatballs” and s— that was, like, terrible. Movies with whole lot of nudity and totally inappropriate for youngsters. If you’re going to see an R-rated movie, it’s your first one, you might as well do a good one. I think we got a good one. You gotta make it count.
CS: For any teachers seeing this film, is there anything you want to say to prepare them?
Ice Cube: I think all teachers are gonna cringe at this movie, because it’s just wrong.
CS: How would you critique Charlie Day’s rap number in this film?
Ice Cube: The little girl’s way better than him. He should just stick to his day job. She should keep it going. She was great. But the number, it steals the movie to me. Out of all this, you get this incredible scene. You can’t accidentally run into something like this. This only happens when the movie’s working and everything’s perfect — then you get a moment like this.
CS: What stands out about what producer Shawn Levy brought to the film?
Ice Cube: I just think supporting his team. What’s cool about him is you didn’t notice him till you needed him. Till he needed to come in and correct a tone or aspect of the movie, then you realize why he’s where he is because the best producers know when to step in and when to step back, and he displayed that effortlessly. When you got guys like that around the set, you know that you’re taken care of. I’m executive producer, but I wasn’t day-to-day, “this is my baby,” like with [director] Richie [Keen] and with Charlie. A lot of producers you see damn is that gonna be right but this guy was good.
CS: A year ago now, a movie depicting your life, starring your son was a big part of the #OscarsSoWhite conversation. The group of actors nominated this year is more diverse, and I’m curious what you think about that.
Ice Cube: I mean, it’s great. It’s cool when people get recognized for good work. I don’t cry when it don’t happen, because to me it’s not what we do it for. We don’t do movies for Oscars, and if you do, you’re wrong. You should do movies that can inspire and entertain people. If you do that, then who cares? The trophy, that’s a personal thing to hang at home.
CS: So, you are confident you got a movie here that inspires and entertains?
Ice Cube: We definitely entertain. I don’t know what we inspire people to do — maybe for people to pay more attention to the school system or teachers to come up with better techniques. But this is not a movie for that. This is just a movie to have fun and laugh.