Ice Cube for “Torque”

It might be winter in Los Angeles, but Ice Cube arrives for our interview in traditional T-shirt, exuding genuine warmth that remains the one-time rapper’s trademark. Busier than ever, Cube admits that he chose to play a badass bikie in the over-the-top actioner “Torque,” to get away from the black-themed comedies that have made him popular here in the US.

In his laid-back tone, Cube agrees that “you kind of wait around for something like this to come along and we always try to figure out what movies are right, what’s next, where really should we try to go? You know, I’ve been trying to get in an international audience for a long time, so these kinds of movies are the way to get it done.” Cube adds that his decision, despite not getting a full script when he signed on, “is very calculated.”

Working with numerous stunt specialists for this all-out action flick, Cube says that “we had people who were specialists at different things, you know? Some people could do wheelies, some people could do stunts, some people could fall of the bikes, you know? So, it was a lot of different people involved and we did about four weeks of training and, it was cool. It made us better riders, cause we had the best people out there teaching us all the tricks of the trade.”

Not a huge bike fan off screen before shooting Torque, Cube has a new perspective, saying that he is a convert. “I bought myself a Kawasaki750, and now I tear up the neighbourhood. But I don’t get too crazy on them, cause, I still got a lot to live for,” adds Cube, smilingly.

It’s been some 12 years since the rapper turned his attention to action. These days, Cube is a producer and major film star, but none of these were part of some master plan when he began to make the transition to movie stardom. “The master plan comes after you kind of learn the business,” explains Cube. “After years of business, I tried to see what was out there for me. My pop always told me that the world is full of opportunities, which you either take or not, and I always kept that in mind. So I seen opportunities to write the video instead of just hire somebody, and the opportunity to see what the camera guy’s doing. All these opportunities are all around and you either take advantage of them or you just hang out in your trailer.”

No hanging out for Ice Cube, as his “Barbershop” sequel is heading to a theatre near you later this month. Determined not to do a sequel to the hit ensemble comedy for the sake of it, Cube says the time was right. “We got all the players back, with everybody that was in the first one agreeing to do the second one, which to me was one of the ingredients of making a great sequel. We also have an experienced director, in Kevin Rodney Sullivan, who was the dude who did How Stella Got Her Groove Back. I knew we would have a movie that had a little more structure and a little more camera movement, things like that. Then the script that we got made you feel like you’re back in the barbershop, and I don’t think people mind that. I think that story line is a little more interesting where you have to ask yourself a lot of questions from our move. You know, do we leave the neighbourhood the same or do we kick everybody out and redo it, the things that the first movie just really couldn’t get to. You learned who people are, while now we’re into something new.” Not to mention the addition of Queen Latifah in the cast. “Yeah, you have somebody like Latifah and that’s the cherry on top.”

“Barbershop 2” is not the only sequel keeping Cube busy; he’s ready to step into Vin Diesel’s shoes with the upcoming “XXX 2,” to be directed by Lee Tamahori. “I’m starting to work out and starting to change the diet. We got my man Lee working on the script. I just had a good meeting with him and we’re hashing out where we’re going to take, XXX. How are we gonna make it ours? I said I want it to fit like a glove, not some big, cookie cutter Hollywood movie, even though we doing a big cookie cutter Hollywood movie. I mean, I want it to be smart and cool,” much like the man himself. And no, he adds smilingly, he has sought no advice from his predecessor in the role.

He’s only had one day of formal acting classes, but Cube has no regrets. He recalls advice that Larry Fishburne gave him while working on the seminal Boyz N the Hood. “He just looked over at me and said the best acting is not acting, just do your thing. From then on, I just kind of took my own cues.”