Straight Outta Compton, the artful N.W.A biopic, has topped the box office two weekends in a row, earning a staggering $111.5 million. Eight facts that moviegoers probably don’t know about the hip-hop hit.
1. It has Lupita Nyong’o’s seal of approval.
Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o has mad pride for Corey Hawkins (as a young Dr. Dre), whom she calls “irresistible.” (They met while shooting her 2014 thriller Non-Stop.) His background is impressive: Hawkins is a Juilliard School graduate who starred on Broadway in Romeo and Juliet, playing Tybalt.
2. This crew has history.
There’s a reason director F. Gary Gray nailed the tone of N.W.A’s story: He has known this crew for years. Early on, Gray helmed music videos for Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, including It Was A Good Day, “which is the four-minute version of Friday to me,” Ice Cube said in a YouTube roundtable recently. (1995’s Friday was Gray’s feature debut.) “It’s the same thing that Spike (Lee) does in New York. He makes our neighborhoods look beautiful. … It’s more about the humanity than just all the hood (stuff) they can show.”
3. Story lines have been contested.
Critics of the film note that the depiction sidesteps violent outbursts in the rap group’s past, most notably Dre’s alleged history of violence against women, particularly Dee Barnes, formerly a hip-hop journalist; R&B singer Michel’le, Dre’s ex-girlfriend; and former labelmate Tairrie B.
Last week, Dre issued his first direct apology via The New York Times: “Twenty-five years ago, I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life,” he told the Times in a statement. “However, none of this is an excuse for what I did. I’ve been married for 19 years and every day I’m working to be a better man for my family, seeking guidance along the way. I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again.”
He added: “I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.”
4. There’s Oscar buzz.
Critics cheered the N.W.A biopic, and audiences rewarded the film by leading it to dominate August’s box office. Could any of the actors be tapped come awards season? Industry insiders are particularly highlighting the nuanced performance by newcomer Jason Mitchell, who portrays Eazy-E and his battle with AIDS. Mitchell next stars in the crime drama Vincent-N-Roxxy with Emile Hirsch and Zoë Kravitz and the comedy Keanu with Keegan-Michael Key, Jordan Peele and Will Forte.
5. Ice Cube’s son had to audition for his dad’s role.
O’Shea Jackson Jr., Ice Cube’s son and a first-time actor, didn’t get to star in Compton just because of his genes. (“I keep looking at him and thinking he’s a young me,” Ice Cube told USA TODAY.) Instead, Jackson spent two years auditioning for the part and working with acting coaches.
6. Tupac was played by two actors.
During screenings of Straight Outta Compton, theatergoers have reliably cheered during the scene in which Tupac Shakur (Marcc Rose) records California Love with Dr. Dre (Hawkins). Rose, who is used to being stopped on the street because he looks so much like the late rapper, told USA TODAY he moved to Los Angeles from Brooklyn in an effort to get cast as Tupac in Compton. (Success!) Rose, however, doesn’t do his character’s onscreen rapping. Tupac’s raps are provided by actor Darris Love, who’s been training almost eight years to play the icon in the upcoming biopic Truth About Tupac.
7. The N.W.A actors did some of their own rapping.
As an exercise to help them get into character, the lead Compton actors re-recorded N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton album. They also did their own rapping while shooting the movie, often while the real rappers looked on. In the film, the audience hears a mix of the actors’ voices and the original rappers’.
Aldis Hodge, who plays MC Ren, was nervous about rapping his character’s verse in the track Straight Outta Compton, but Ren himself gave the actor a positive review. “He said it was dope,” Hodge told USA TODAY.
8. Ice Cube was involved with ‘every aspect of the movie.’
Ice Cube has been part of producing Straight Outta Compton “from start until finish … until the DVD comes out,” he told USA TODAY. That meant that the original N.W.A member was on the set nearly every day. When he had to leave to shoot scenes for another movie, 2014’s Ride Along, he Skyped with the cast.