In the Spotlight

June 10, 2022
In The Spotlight

What’s the first movie you fell in love with?

I think the first movie I fell in love with was, and this is a strange one, but The Nutty Professor with Jerry Lewis. I just thought he was the coolest thing ever, which really shows you what I knew about cool at the time. Jerry Lewis, cool? I mean, especially when you see that role played by Eddie Murphy all those years later, it's pretty amazing, the difference. But yeah, I was just lost in that character, smooth and smoking a cigarette, and I think a powder blue jacket he had on or something. He was just so cool when he went into that character. So that's one of my earliest remembrances of a movie that I just fell in love with.

But I'll take this opportunity to answer another question then it's a later question, which is, “What movie makes me laugh?” And that would be The Nutty Professor with Eddie Murphy. And as a matter of fact, I got a chance to tell Eddie this. I was out to dinner with Eddie one night and this is many years ago. And I told him, I said, "Eddie, you know what? I got to tell you this man. I said, it gives me a great pleasure to tell you this, because I've told so many people this and that is this, that on my death bed with my last breath, I just might say, tell Eddie, “Whanks for the dinner scenes in The Nutty Professor." And he said, “Thanks, man.” Admit something to him. He understood what I was saying. That's the funniest thing I've ever seen in a movie. That's the hardest I've ever laughed was the dinner scene. And I was telling him that I love, I called them throwaway lines. I don't know what they would call it technically.

Everybody remembers all those classic lines from that movie, from that scene. “You going to walk over here, but you going to limp back.”; “Hercules! Hercules! Hercules!”; “Mike Douglas make me moist,” all that kind of stuff. It was just so many classic lines that people remember. But the thing that I loved was at the end of that, the transition into the next scene shows the mother coming out as she pushes the screen door open and as she's walking out on the porch, she says, "My, what a glorious, wonderful night," something like that. I'm not sure of the words, I think that's it. But that line was so powerful to me because with all that we just saw, they were in there about to kill each other. That line said, "Man, that's just what we do on Friday night." And Eddie really appreciated that, that I loved that.

What artist or figure has been most influential in your life?

I mean, there've been so many, from Dr. King to Malcolm X to James Brown, Curtis Mayfield to Obama. It is just endless, my mom, my dad, but I would probably restrict that to entertainment, and I would have to say that person would be James Brown. When I was fourteen, I heard those words, "Say it loud, I'm Black and I'm proud." And that was life changing for me. It really was. As a matter of fact, I talk about it in a documentary. I think the man, the myth the music or something like that, it's about James and I had one of the coolest nights. I hung out one night with Reverend Al Sharpton. The Reverend was pretty much raised by James Brown. That's how close they were. And he was telling me what that video meant to Mr. Brown. He said, "Man, he said we would play that thing." And He said, “Mr. Brown would say back it up, back it up, back it up, play it again.” When I would say my thing about him, that I said that's the most important song in music history. And he would say because it taught me Black pride, before that, it's like, man, who are you calling Black? But James changed all of that. I don't mean he changed it alone, but that was certainly a significant moment.

And Mr. Brown would say, “Back it up, back it, play it again, play it again.” And he said, we'd play it again. He said, we'd have to play it like five, six times. And he'd go, you what he said? Most important song in music history, not black music, music history. Play it again, play it again. Then he'd say, "That's my man right there, that's my man," to know that what I said meant something to my king. I just cannot tell you how that makes me feel. I used to tell James that "You are my king, I'm your soldier, there's nothing I wouldn't do for you." And I meant that because of what he did for me, taught me Black pride. So in terms of most influential as an artist, it would have to be James Brown.

How do you relax during stressful times?

Well, it's like I have a built-in cool, right? I don't get too stressed about things. Of course, we all go through things, but I think there's a book I read once in one of these self—I think it's the most successful self-help book ever published, The Road Less Traveled. I think this is where that comes from. I'm pretty sure it is. And in the very first paragraph, very first page, first thing that's talked about is basically like t-shirts say, "Stuff happens," and that you need to understand that. And that once you realize that that things happen, then life becomes easy. I know it sounds really simple, but it is and it's true. I don't expect it to always be perfect. I know that things happen, that things won't go the wave that I want them to go, but I don't get all bent out of shape over it. I'm one of them guys. It is a silver lining in every cloud to me. When I see thunderstorms, I can't wait for them to clear so I can see the rainbows.

So I'm just wired that way. I really am that in my worst days, I'll find good in it. Every day is great to me, you can't give me a day I don't like—rain, sleech, snow, whatever, whatever, I can always deal with it. So I'm just kind of wired that way to not sweat the small things. I know that to get caught up in these small things, I know that life goes on and that no matter how much power you give them, life is still going to happen. And so I don't get caught up in the negative stuff too much. I really don't spend much time with it.

What’s your favorite movie?

I'd have to say the most perfect movie I ever saw is The Godfather. It's my favorite movie ever. I can't even tell you how many times I've seen it. I would guess that…a thousand? I don't know, but it's just a perfect movie. I have it in every configuration. I have The Godfather. I have Godfather Part II. I don't have three. I watched that thing one time and hated it. Never saw it again, but saw a little piece of it again and Godfather, The Trilogy, but they only used like 40 minutes of it. So they knew they didn't have anything. Godfather, The Saga. I have El Padrino, which is Godfather in Italian. I bought it in Italy. It's my favorite movie. That's the movie that I could quote lines most from is The Godfather. And I'd have to say my favorite line in the entire movie is when the consigliere, Tom says to the movie mogul, after he tells him that his client is not going to get this part in this movie. He says, you can have your man take me to the airport, whatever the line is, "Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately." I love that line. It's like you said, "No, I got to go, I got to go." That's so cold-blooded to me, love that line. 

But another movie I quote, I guess next to that would be Quentin Tarantino's movie, Jackie Brown, Samuel L. Jackson. There's so many great lines in there. I loved that movie. As a matter of fact, I was playing golf with Sam one day and I just started quoting lines. He said, "Damn, you know more lines than me," but that's how much I love that movie. I went so deep on that one. I did something I never do. I went into the extras on the CD and they had deleted scenes and all that. I started learning lines from the deleted scene so I could hit them with those the next time we play. So anyway, that is the most perfect movie to me.

I have two movies that I take on vacation with me whenever I go. And that is The Godfather and The Temptations. Now I know technically, especially being Turner Classic Movies, you wouldn't even consider The Temptations because it was a made-for-TV movie, but it's a movie to me and it is so perfect, especially for a boy growing up in Detroit, that movie meant the world to me. And I love The Temptations forever. And my favorite group ever, but I know that if I had those two movies with me, I don't care where I go or how long I'm gone or if they don't speak my language, I have enough entertainment to last me for as long as I'm going to be there. If I got The Godfather and The Temptations, that's how I feel about those movies.

What's the first thing you do in the morning?

First thing I do in the morning is thank God for waking me up to pee.

If you could watch one movie with anybody dead or alive, what would it be?

I would watch Blazing Saddles with my dad who's been gone for about fourteen, fifteen years now, but he loved that movie. First of all, he loved Westerns. And I did too. When I was a kid, that's all they made it seem was Westerns, but Blazing Saddles was so funny and the scene that he loved so much was I want to say the fart scene, but he wouldn't have that. We were not allowed to use that word. We could say the "Gas passing scene," but he would just laugh at that thing. It was so funny to him. And it was so funny to me. And again, here we go with another throwaway line, but everybody remembers that scene. I wonder how many people remember the line that ends it. When that guy walks up to him, after you hear all the fart noises and the guy walks up there and "Can I have some more of them beans?" 

That's so funny, but yeah, I would love to watch that just one more time with my dad and since we were in heaven, maybe Richard would watch it with me, Richard Pryor, since he was such an integral part of writing that movie. That would be pretty cool too. So anyway, but that would be my wish. Me and my dad in Blazing Saddles.