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Idlewild - Antwan Patton interview

Idlewild

Compiled by Jack Foley

ANTWAN Patton talks about the OutKast movie Idlewild as well as the challenge of acting for the first time and appearing alongside such established stars as Oscar nominee Terrence Howard and Ving Rhames…

Q: Can you talk about the cultural synergy in the film, from 1930’s Cab Calloway and Bessie Smith to modern hip-hop? What were your influences in layering the music, culture and dance?
A: I guess one of the major challenges when we started to shoot the film was that we didn’t have all the music ready yet. They kept telling us not to worry because they would just shoot around it. Then we’d get to set and the first thing they’d tell us is that they needed a song. [Laughs.]

It worked out all right, because we did have some songs prepared, but we were lucky because the storyline was so strong that we didn’t need music all the way through it. If we had to do this again, we’d definitely have all the music first.

Q: How did you go about taking that music of old and giving it some new life?
A: That shows us being influenced by all musical genres. We were never biased in our records in creating sounds, because we liked rock, jazz and blues and pop and country. To go back and throw in some swing was great. It was cool adding some ragtime feel and we just did what we needed to do. We can satisfy our fans by doing what we do best.

Q: How much of the character of Rooster is there in you?
A: I think there’s more than just a little bit. Bryan took our personalities and exaggerated them and gave us room to play with them. By him knowing certain details about our lives and how we react to situations, he hit it right on the bulls-eye.

Q: Have you thought about having more training as an actor?
A: Talking to different directors and veteran actors on set, I have learned that it’s all about timing. You have to keep yourself in the moment. I don’t know if a class can teach you how to play a person or a certain type of role. I think you need to be aware of your surroundings, but as we are always in the studio, I don’t know when we would even find the time to go do some training.

Q: What was it like to work with people like Terrence Howard? How much did they lend to your own performances?
A: This was my first film and the first day we shot, I did the scene where I’m on the sidewalk with my wife and kids shopping. I was so nervous, but I was gearing up for it. Ben Vereen was my mentor and he was psyching me up before Terrence got there. He said: “Terrence is a veteran actor who will come on set in character and he won’t like you. He’ll treat you like shit. He might even try and sucker you in by being your friend just to throw you off. You can’t let him take the scene away from you. You have to go toe to toe with him.”

When Terrence showed up, he was in the make-up room and my heart was beating so fast. He turned and saw me and said: “Man, what’s up man? I have been checking you out and would love to play some songs with you.” I knew that he was trying to sucker me in. [Laughs.] I told Ben that he wanted to come to my trailer and play some songs, and Ben said: “Don’t let him do it.” I knew I had to watch him, but then he came by and I realized he was a good guy.

Anyway, back to the first day of shooting, I was so nervous so I turned the nervousness into the anger that I needed for the scene. After we shot a couple of times, Terrence told me that I had him shook up from the way I was standing. He honestly felt that I wanted to kill him. For him to tell me that really gave me the confidence and it was all good after that.

Q: What about some of the other veteran actors you worked with? What did you learn from them?
A: It was fun. For the most part, you learned a little something from each person. I didn’t want them to think that this was just another rap guy coming in to make a movie. You wanted them to know you were dead serious about it. Once they got to know you and the reasons why we wanted to be on screen, we all became this big family and played off each other.

Faizon was the big funny brother. Paula Jay was all fun. Cicely Tyson was so serious. When I did the scene with her, she was so serious, even with the kids. She would turn around and tell the kids to stop moving. I was on the outside of the car thinking: “Damn, those are just some kids.” But she was serious!

Q: You guys didn’t have many scenes together. Did that reflect a decision to keep your personalities more separate?
A: That was another great call by Bryan. He didn’t want to make a buddy-buddy type film. By telling two stories of this brotherhood, where the stories weave in and out of each other, it was more interesting that way. By separating the two, you got to see more about them individually.

Read our review of Idlewild

Read our interview with Andre Benjamin