Amid the point-blank shootings, nude scuffling and desperate partying, the most shocking image in the movie “Get Rich or Die Tryin”’ is the tear that rolls down the cheek of the baddest man in gangsta rap, 50 Cent.
The bullet-scarred, tattooed king of the hip-hop charts did not resort to tricks to achieve the moment. As in other aspects of his life, he was motivated by the fear of failure.
“I spent the majority of my life trying to figure out how not to cry in situations. I had anxiety about having to get that done,” the 29-year-old New Yorker told Reuters about the scene in the movie based on his life, which opens Wednesday.
“If I don’t pull this off people will look at me and say, ‘Told you.’ What helped me cry in that scene was me thinking about people viewing me as a failure.”
The film, which Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson describes as “75 percent factual,” tells the tale of an orphaned boy named Marcus who follows into his mother’s violent world of drug dealing before devoting himself to rhymes and rap. The movie’s title is the same as his debut CD, which sold more than 7 million copies.
The first artist to have four songs in the top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 since the Beatles in 1964, 50 Cent, who took the name of a fabled Brooklyn thief, hooked up with esteemed director Jim Sheridan, an unlikely kindred spirit, to try and extend his empire into the movies.
Sheridan was keen to collaborate and used his connection to another superstar of the music world to seal the deal.
“I’ve liked rap music for 10, 15 years,” said 56-year-old Irishman Sheridan, director of such esteemed films as his debut feature, “My Left Foot” (1989) and “In America” (2003) and recipient of six Academy Award nominations.
“Bono knew that and told (music executive and the film’s producer) Jimmy Iovine, who got me the script. Then I met 50 and it was like I’d known him for a hundred years.
“I just knew his world. It was like the world I grew up in in Dublin. I knew gangsters and drugs and I was even in a band. It was like he was a long lost brother.”
Sheridan takes no credit for steering 50 Cent through his emotional scene. “I just said, ’Take one’ and he was crying.”
“We the odd couple, me and Jim,” says 50 Cent, who was once shot nine times on the street in front of his grandparents’ house.
“Jim Sheridan came to me before we began the film and said, ’You know, a lot of people want to see this film not be good. You have to be 110 percent here every day on every shot.’
“I put everything I could put into the project and I can’t wait to see the general public’s response to it,” he said about his acting debut.
The rapper, is surrounded by quality talent, from villainous Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, known for his role in HBO’s “Oz,” to love interest Joy Bryant, drug gang godfather Bill Duke and prison buddy Terrence Howard, star of the indie hit “Hustle & Flow,” and featured in “Ray.”
The script was written by Terence Winter, a two-time Emmy winner for “The Sopranos,” who interviewed the rapper about his life for 10 weeks during his Rock the Mic tour last year.
Rated R, the film rises above the standard genre piece imbued with realism, intelligence and the raw charm of its star.
“For me, doing this film is a way of bringing my base closer and to actually broaden my base,” 50 Cent said, his baseball cap twisted to the side over his cloth skull cap.
“There’s people out there that don’t view hip-hop as a genre of music for entertainment but can sit and watch a film based on my life because there’s a curiosity about me.”
'Mistakes I made'While his rap lyrics paint a crude picture of drug dealing and violence, the movie shows one can rise above.
“These are the mistakes I made in my life. These are the things I was subjected to,” he said. “I had no choice. The things you go through determine who you are.”
Sheridan said rap is an outlet. “It’s like an exorcism. Once you express violence, you kind of defuse it in a way.
Fatherhood is a turning point in the film and in his life.
“My boy is the reason why I write music,” he said. “Ahead of that, if I got in trouble and had to go into a program or to jail it was just something I had to do. When he came into the picture if I wasn’t physically available to provide for him no one else would.
“He just turned 9. Marquise,” he said, raising from the comfy hotel suite armchair and pulling off his thick hooded sweatshirt to show the name tattooed down his right arm.
The rapper is enjoying the fruits of his success, including a $4 million Connecticut mansion he owns that used to belong to boxer Mike Tyson, but says he fights to conquer his fear of failure.
“When you grow up without finances, finances seem like the answer to all your problems,” says 50, who has his own clothing line, a video game coming out and also produces other rap hits.
“I go to sleep in the home of a man who lived there before me and made $500 million, and he no longer has it. That’s an example of no matter how successful you are, you have to be on point with your business.”