A Chris Rock interview is a lot like a Chris Rock stand-up special, bouncing from topic to topic, hitting hard truths laced with humor. What may be a nightmare scenario for publicists makes for great reading. In a new and lengthy interview with New York Magazine, writer-at-large and “Veep” producer Frank Rich inputs topics into conversation like the comedian-turned-director is a search engine. Enter “Obama,” “Bill Cosby,” or “censorship” into Chris Rock Google and out pops every thought on his mind.
Tackling politics, his stand-up career, and the state of comedy in 2014, Rich”s interview eventually gets to the reason that they”re together in a room at this very moment: “Top Five.” Earlier this Fall, Toronto Film Festival audiences went bananas for Rock”s jazzy, star-studded dramedy. Written, directed, and starring the comedian, “Top Five” rings autobiographical, following a comedian ready to hang up his jokey hat in favor of a “serious” movie career. During a multi-day New York Times interview (with roving reporter Rosario Dawson), Rock”s character soaks up 21st century culture and waxes poetic, a model more than a little influenced by Woody Allen (who Rich is quick to bring up in the NYM interview).
When Rich steers the conversation towards “Top Five,” Rock opens up about his Hollywood headspace. He sees writing comedy as objectively more difficult than anything in the dramatic realm. In his mind, Woody Allen is more of a dramatist with wit rather than a comedic director – an ideal middle-ground for the stories he wants to tell. Rock has ambitions to write straight-up dramatic roles for himself, including a script about “a radio guy with a talk show,” who may have a thing or two in common with Tavis Smiley. “Kind of an Al Sharpton guy who”s against Obama in the year Obama runs. It”s the life of a black guy going against the grain while this thing is happening around him.”
And then there”s this gem, on how difficult it is to direct great comedy versus great drama:
I loved “Gone Girl.” Loved it. But you could probably get other directors-I”m not saying they”d make it as good as Fincher, but you could get it from beginning to end and get a reaction out of it, where you can”t really do that with comedy [.…] Take “Anchorman.” Now switch the directors of “Anchorman” and “Gone Girl” and give them their movies to do. Adam McKay”s going to get closer to “Gone Girl” than Fincher is going to get to “Anchorman.”
“Top Five” is Rock”s third film after “Head of State” and “I Think I Love My Wife.” As he tells Rich, he still has serious ambitions to act and direct in the future. Rock reveals that he spoke to the late Nora Ephron about teaming up for a project one day. He”d love to do a Nancy Meyers movie, the type of rom-com fluff he could take his mother to. And when it comes to directing again, anything is on the table. He not-so-subtly throws his hat into the ring for a future Marvel comic book movie – if Bryan Singer could do it after “The Usual Suspects,” why couldn”t he? This future may depends on how “Top Five” plays with audiences. The TIFF-goers loved it. He expresses worries in Rich”s interview:
[Paramount is] getting greedy, which is scaring me a little bit. It was supposed to be New York and L.A. the 5th, and then the rest of the country on the 12th. Now they”re just going for the whole country on the 12th. It feels like they”re going to go for 2,000 screens. Every screening”s gone amazingly well, but something inside me keeps saying, “This is a little movie.”
The Chris Rock-Frank Rich interview is chock full of insight and commentary. Check out the full piece here.