He may not quite be a household name (like one of his inspirations Eddie Murphy) but global stardom is only a matter of when. Kevin Hart is already a huge deal in American stand-up comedy selling out arenas and stadiums with his one-man shows. A decade of films, mostly bit parts or standard walk on and crazy best friend roles, regrettably including Little Fockers, Scary Movie 3 and Fools Gold (which was filmed in Queensland with Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey). Recently Kevin won a multicultural industry award for Entertainer of the Year and has had three box office hits in a row. ‘Grudge Match’ opposite cinema royalty Robert DeNiro & Sylvester Stallone, ‘About Last Night’ remake of the 80s classic and now finally being released Down Under ‘Ride Along’ the biggest of all. Sitting opposite each other for a chat inside a luxury Sydney hotel suite was fantastic, Kevin Hart is very cool indeed.
SHANE A. BASSETT – How did you enjoy the red carpet Ride Along event in Sydney last night mate?
KEVIN HART – I just enjoyed the fans’ response over all. I am big on wanting international success, it’s a real goal for me and now being in arms reach watching myself slowly achieve it is crazy. The reception I have gotten from my fans since I’ve been here is overwhelming. I embrace it, love it.
SAB – Fans are obviously of big importance to you.
KH – Yes huge, everything to me. You don’t gain success without the support of others. When you have people around giving genuine support, supporting success and watching me grow to what I am now is important. You don’t turn your back, I’m grateful for any support above and beyond.
SAB – I didn’t know whether to call you Kevin or Black-Hammer when I walked in (his gamer alias in Ride Along).
KH – (laughs) It’s going to stick, a lot of people are going to call me Black-Hammer because of this movie, it’s a great thing.
SAB – From what I see, you’re a naturally gifted comedian. Was it actually hard work or does the lighter side of you flow easily?
KH – Thanks I appreciate that and good question. Not to sound like an asshole but I’m a funny guy. I’m naturally a funny guy – what you see is what you get. It’s not a forced act, it’s not a character – it’s me on stage being myself telling stories. My point of view, I like to call it my therapy. You know that’s me talking about my problems good or bad. Anything I’ve done in life I put it out there. My fans laugh and love it but if you really dissect what’s happening, I’m talking about my life. My feelings of how people treat me, how I treat them, my views on kids or my kids, my mum passing away, my dad being on drugs and why I got divorced. It’s all personal.
SAB – Did you audition for Ride Along or was it written specifically.
KH – The movie was offered to me. Funny thing is the script was around for 8 to 10 years sitting around but the studio couldn’t find the right duo for it. Now I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason and after I was starting to gain some success, Ice Cube came across the script through his company Cube Vision. He then met with a producer I know well, they talked and met with Tim Story (director). Someone suggested let’s get Kev to read it, I did and fell in love with it. Jumped at the idea of me and Cube working together so off to Universal Pictures we went and said, we have the package, do you want the movie? They jumped, took it never looking back. The rest is history, it’s a massive hit in the US.
SAB – Already a sequel in the works I believe.
KH – We start filming end of June, early July.
SAB – Where is your character heading in the sequel?
KH – Oh that’s a good question. We are trying to figure out scenarios now. The script is currently writing, we want to make sure to keep it grounded. We don’t see it going too crazy beyond the slapstick aspect of these movies. I want to keep it real, let the comedy come from a real place, how we are keeping James & Ben (Cube & Hart) together is TBD (To Be Determined).
SAB – Some of your action scenes would have been difficult, did you do many yourself?
KH – (Laughing loudly, nodding then shaking head still laughing) I wish I could sit here and lie to you saying, hell yeah, I did all those scenes, but no. You attempt to do a couple but at the end of the day, you get hurt you shut down production. People’s lives, jobs are at stake for simple stupidity for a second so it’s a stunt guy’s responsibility. I don’t know where they find these little guys willing to do all the shit that they do. Personally my stunt guy was really good (laughs). Actually, I did a few fight scenes with Fish (Laurence Fishburne) scrambling, throwing me and picking me up that was fun.
SAB – Really, well he is an extremely solid guy, I met him on ‘The Matrix’ set.
KH – I know right, Fish is about 6’3 bigger than you (Shane is 6’1 for the record).
SAB – Did Ice Cube show you how to fire a movie gun correctly?
KH – No, but willing to bet he’s known from past experiences in life and in movies right back to ‘Boyz in the Hood’. I was familiar just from working on past projects how to shoot one but it was better for my character to be a little nervous or not to be well versed in handling any type of weapon. He is a gamer, so when he does finally get a weapon you see the result of it at the gun range then shooting it in the warehouse scene.
SAB – Ice must have been cool. Anything you can tell me about him not commonly known?
KH – He is one of the hardest working men I’ve ever been around. It’s not a coincidence he is where he is in his career. Excellent producer, writer, director and accurate actor. He’s polished, by allowing me to be free in the movie he put me in this position, then playing it the way he did opposite me worked so well. A true professional. I couldn’t ask for a better co-star.
SAB – Already a blockbuster in the US, do you think it will transcend to Aussie audiences.
KH – I do, I think this film transfers well, it’s universal – resonates with everyone, regardless of age, weight, race, shape or size. Everyone can go see ‘Ride Along’ to laugh. We all share laughter; this movies gives it to you.
SAB – Who inspires you or what heroes did you aspire to when starting out?
KH – The thing about stand-up comedy when you begin is that you don’t know that you can be yourself. You’re trying to be a replica of what you’ve seen, so Chris Tucker at the time was who everybody loved. Eddie Murphy, his mannerisms I imitated, I was pulling ideas from Martin Lawrence. That’s what I thought you had to be to make it. Chappelle also is who I admired.
You’re trying to emulate in the beginning not because you’re a copycat, you’re just a fan and don’t realise you’re doing it. Then I got to a point and thought, I don’t need to be a character – I can be myself.
SAB – You definitely have your own style but you worked with Eddie on ‘Meet Dave’. How was that experience?
KH – Listen it was not a hit but a great opportunity, it was Eddie Murphy! At the end of the day, I am not only a fan but sitting here for what he has done. The road he went down, he opened up doors for comedians such as myself to gain success.
SAB – Being a short guy, has that ever restricted you from gaining roles?
KH – Not at all, I embrace it. People put a stigma on it, I have no idea why. I remain confident, love the fact I’m short, love the fact I can be called a movie star. My chest is out regardless of my height. It shows in my films. Whatever you portray, if you ground it, make it believable, you address what people may think or may say, it justifies it. You disarm people of verbal attacks by saying it yourself.
SAB – Do you prefer stand-up to being in films?
KH – Yes, without hesitation I am a stand-up comedian first. My next tour will probably be the end of 2015 when we’ll bring it to Australia for the first time. I’m slated to do a bunch of movies first (six in production) but in between, I’ll work on a new comedy set, I refuse to stop.
SAB – One of those in the mix is with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. What can you tell me?
KH – Shane you know your stuff. All I can say is right now it’s a period piece, the first ever black and white cop duo. It’s the 1950s and we are the reason for all the stereotypes that came after. The first cops to say stuff like ‘I’m getting too old for this shit’. It’s a funny premise but still figuring out the kinks. It’s Seth so I’ll jump at any opportunity with him.
SAB – I have to mention the locally made ‘Fools Gold’, did you travel Down Under for your role?
KH – Yes we filmed on the Gold Coast, Byron Bay, Brisbane then down to Melbourne for a little bit. I was here for three and a half months, I love Australia. I am family now, i have history here, no longer an outsider. I am an Australian. (laughs)
SAB – Are you interested in doing drama at some point? I believe you have the range after ‘About Last Night’.
KH – Thanks so much. Of course with anything comes progression, you don’t do things to stay on the same playing field, you want to grow and show you take the craft seriously. As opportunities present themselves, I’ll continue to take them by doing what I do best.
We shake hands and I leave very impressed by this true, easy going, down to earth superstar.
Shane A. Bassett