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Fanfare For The Common: Interview with Common

Author: Tristan Burke
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
Having made his mark on the hip hop scene with eight albums and two grammy wins (on top of countless nominations), Chicago-born producer Common is now forging a career in film, recently starring opposite Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe in American Gangster and with Keanu Reeves in Street Kings. 3D caught up with the man to talk about his role in the new action flick, Wanted, the English-language debut from Russian visionary director Timur Bekmambetov (Night Watch, Day Watch).

What was it you liked about the story-
I liked the way it was written. The story is about this average dude who really didn’t know he had superhuman qualities and these gifts. Once he discovers that, he starts to believe in himself and he goes from being a loser to this assassin, this incredible dude. I liked that part of it. And the characters are so cool – like my guy, The Gunsmith, and The Exterminator. It’s a lot of fun man. I loved the dialogue, there’s a line that Sloan (Morgan Freeman) says: “We’re the weapons of fate.” That’s cool. The way it was written was really interesting to me.

How does it work with the music and the acting-
I definitely plan to do both. I’ve been doing music for a long time and I love it and I definitely always want to do music. But I have been really into working on my acting and getting better and becoming a big movie star – like I want to be out there as a great movie artist. I really focus on that and I prioritise that but I’m able to do the music while I’m working on the films. And working on movies is actually helping me as a musician because it frees up my music. There’s less pressure on the music when I have another way to express myself creatively, and when I have another outlet to generate income – that way it takes the pressure off the music. Eventually I want to do music just for fun.

And I guess the two things feed into each other…
Yeah, definitely they feed into each other. And you know, acting helps me improve as a musician. And being a musician has definitely set the foundation for me to able to be in the arts.

What was it like working with Timur-
Timur is like a big teddy bear [laughs] who is really cool and got great ideas. He was really detailed about what he wanted, but he would also allow you to go free. It felt like I was collaborating with a great producer – meaning a music producer. I felt like he was allowing me to bring my stuff to the table and then he would give me great instructions and he would be spontaneous. It wasn’t just ‘OK, this is in the script so we have to stick to it.’ He was thinking of things on the set so it was very creative. He’s a visual genius I believe – and a likable teddy bear.

James McAvoy has a lot to do in this film because he has to change from that nerdy downtrodden guy into an all action assassin. How did he do-
He really became that manly action guy, the tough guy, and he really developed into that. He’s a guy who can handle business when he needs to. And he goes from his natural Scottish accent to American accent in a matter of seconds – and his American accent is authentic. That dude is one of the great actors and one of the bright stars that’s coming through in the movie world right now.

What about Angelina Jolie-
She’s god-sent, man. She’s so challenging and creative and a true leader. She knows what she wants and she knows who she is. She’s a really good person and a beautiful woman too, and her presence is so powerful. And she is doing so much in the world – in her personal and public life – that is helpful, she leads people. And as an actress she brings so much energy, from creating her own stunts and getting them done to improvising scenes with me and really giving Timur input on certain things. She’s just blessed with gifts, man. And there aren’t too many people who you see on the screen and say ‘That’s a movie star...’ I like to see her in all types of movies but when you see her do this action stuff, she is just the best there is.

And you got to work with Morgan Freeman too…
Mr. Freeman is the guru, man; he’s definitely the master. You know, to be working with the master when you are the student, you keep your eyes open and your ears open and you learn. He was a lot of fun and he taught me some things, he gave me notes and advice, which was very inspiring. For him to reach out to me like that was incredible.

Do you find it easy to watch yourself on screen-
It’s easier than I thought it would be, but it’s difficult because I’m looking at everything going on, seeing what I did in a scene, how well it’s going. My biggest desire when I’m watching myself is to see the character and not see the energy of who Common is. Sometimes when that comes out, I get mad. I want that character to be alive and I don’t want to see myself when I look at a movie.

What’s your next movie-
Terminator Salvation. I’m playing Barnes. I’m part of the resistance with John Connor, who is played by Christian Bale. He’s a great actor.

So things are going well for you as an actor…
Yeah, man, it’s a blessing and I’m just going to stay focused and stay in tune with God and keep my eyes on what the goals are.

Wanted opens in cinemas 31 July. More information from For the film’s awesome red-band trailer hit Gotta love that URL.