Deadline: Exclusive F. Gary Gray Q&A: The Hard Life Lessons That Led To ‘Straight Outta Compton’
EXCLUSIVE: Studio execs who thought of F. Gary Gray as a go-to guy for taut thrillers like The Italian Job, The Negotiator, Law Abiding Citizen and Be Cool already are reassessing as Straight Outta Compton opens tomorrow with rave reviews and strong box office expectations. The film chronicles the fast rise and fall of N.W.A and the birth of streetwise poets who reflected the poverty, gangs, drugs, guns and heavy-handed law enforcement that was part and parcel of living in the Los Angeles ghetto. The film is very personal for Gray, who is around the same age and grew up in South Central Los Angeles just miles from N.W.A members Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren and DJ Yella. There is a Social Network atom-splitting depiction of the birth of an important cultural movement in Straight Outta Compton, and an underdog story of the struggle of young men from the ‘hood to say something important, and then handle the money and women when fame came their way. There is also an unexpected timeliness to ’80s N.W.A songs like “F*ck Tha Police” that somehow seem relevant after incidents in several U.S. cities this year. While the movie is getting the best reviews Gray has received in his career, memories of violence associated with Boyz N The Hood and other urban films has created an unwelcome press narrative that anticipates trouble going into opening weekend. I did this interview because I was intrigued about how similar Gray’s learning curve was to the subjects of Straight Outta Compton, but given the spate of press about heightened security, we start there.