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Terrence Howard: In The Machine

terrencehoward1

You often hear the Cinderella (or Cinderfella) stories

of Hollywood – the ways an actor has struggled through tough times and relative

obscurity, even though it seems as though they work harder than anyone else.

 

In the case of Terrence Howard, the glass slipper

came in the form of two very different movie releases in 2005 – Hustle & Flow and Crash. Three years later, he’s come even

further with a strong supporting role in the amazing film Iron Man.

 

Terrence has always talked frankly about his

musical influences, eclectic tastes and dedication to his craft – so much so

that he’s often criticized for being too

unique. He’s also been linked romantically to many ladies, then called a

woman-hater after giving some of his opinions on women in the press.

 

How has he accepted his mainstream fame after being

a best-kept-secret for so long? How does he handle personal criticism in the

midst of his success? How does he stay focused in the whirlwind that his life

has become? We took a slow drag of quiet time with the ever-busy

actor/musician/producer to find out why he’s really built for this.   

 

AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about being part of

such an epic movement [with Iron Man]?

 

Terrence Howard: After so many years of being part

of so many smaller films, you like the smaller films because there’s a lot of

creative freedom involved, but there’s no fiduciary rewards or reaping from

those films. Hustle & Flow has

benefitted me down the line because it’s allowed me to do other movies, but I

have not stopped working since then. I haven’t been able to really take a break

or vacation. I picture people like Scarlett Johansson or Natalie Portman or

even Denzel [Washington] being able to disappear for four or five months.

 

I’ve had to work continually. So a film like this

gives me a financial base and hopefully if we do a sequel, knowing that next

year I will still make X amount of dollars because we have this next film

locked. That frees me up to do independent films if I want, but also frees me

up to take a vacation and enjoy the movie star life that I keep hearing so much

about and still have never been able to experience.

 

AllHipHop.com: Are your kids pretty stoked that

you’re in Iron Man?

 

Terrence Howard: Yeah, but they don’t express it

like that. They keep it real tight-mouthed about it. I’m still their daddy.

They’re still wondering whether I’m gonna be mad at them for their report card

or for them going in my stuff or something that they weren’t supposed to do.

They enjoy the privileges, but they’ve always seen the privileges that I have.

If I have to steal I’ll make sure they have the things that they need. They’re

stoked, but I don’t see them expressing it outwardly.

 “I don’t mind being considered

eccentric, but sometimes within the Hip-Hop or Black community, eccentric is

oftentimes associated with being gay or something like that. I’m a hell of an

individual.”

AllHipHop.com: Your character Rhodey is more of a

straight man to Tony Stark’s eccentric personality, but in real life you’ve

actually been called eccentric quite a bit. How does it feel for you to be

considered eccentric, and do you embrace that?

 

Terrence Howard: I don’t mind being considered

eccentric, but sometimes within the Hip-Hop or Black community, eccentric is

oftentimes associated with being gay or something like that. I’m a hell of an

individual. I got suspended about 15 times a year growing up for

insubordination. I wish it had been for being eccentric, but I think eccentric

is seeing life for yourself and being willing to express and experience it for

yourself. But we are so used to conformity that any time someone steps outside

the normal box we label them as weird or different.

 

I remember when I first heard online that Will

Smith was gay, I was like, “Oh…that’s possible, I guess.” But then

when I read online that I was gay, I

was like, “Oh, who the hell came up with that?” The eccentricity of

being an individual is always gonna make you separate from the rest of

everybody else, and you have to be okay with that. But I set out to see the

world through my own eyes, experience it and taste the world for myself,

instead of having someone else tell me this is what the world tastes like.

 

I want to know, I need to know just for my own

sake of being me at the end of the day. I’m kind of glad I’m eccentric if that

is what I am. I just think I’m human. I think I’m an individual human like

anybody else.

 

AllHipHop.com: The Hip-Hop community values

struggle. You worked for 12

years before somebody said, “Wow that guy’s a great actor” in

mainstream America.

 

Terrence Howard: Really it was 20 years. I was 36

years old when Hustle & Flow kind

of hit the world and I had been acting since I was about 16 years old, so 20

years inside of a profession normally you would receive some type of pension

from it. But the pension becomes the fan recognition, the respect from peers.

 

To get a phone call from Denzel saying, “I

saw the movie, you did a damn good job” – that in itself is the reaping of

all the struggle and hard work, and that’s the best thing an actor can hope to

gain. Hopefully the monetary side will balance and match itself. I used to

think that being a Hip-Hop artist or singer would be the most important thing

in somebody’s life and pay them more than anything else. Every singer wants to

be an actor, because an actor really makes the money.

 

AllHipHop.com: When filming Get Rich Or Die Trying with 50 Cent, you [talked] about what you

were learning from him. I’m sure he broke a lot of things down about that too.

 

Terrence Howard: [nods] It’s the business side of

it. You’ll make more money from advances than you will in sales, so you gotta

make sure that the propaganda is greater than the reality, and that you can

follow up the reality with even greater propaganda. It’s a talking game, it’s not

really a musician’s game. In me making my own album, I made an album just for

me to hear and if somebody else falls into it then that’s wonderful.

 

But I was told from the start, do not think that

you’re going to get rich and retire off of an album or a number of albums.

That’s for the very lucky and few, like Celine Dion – 200 million copies of her

albums sold, she can retire off of that. 

I don’t know anybody else that’s sold 200 million copies of an album. That’s

the very few and far between.

 

AllHipHop.com: You mentioned before that when you

did the church scene in Hustle & Flow

that it was actually you – you just felt the moment and it wasn’t acting. In

doing a movie like Iron Man where you

got to do a lot of improv, were there any moments where you just came out?

 

Terrence Howard: There’s times when me and Robert

[Downey Jr.] are talking on the plane – all of that is just kind of improve,

literally. He just runs through everything… it doesn’t matter, any casualties

just happen. I didn’t know we were

rolling, and I said to him, “You know what? If you need your diaper

changed just let me know. I’m your babysitter, I’ll change your diaper” -

so that was me.

 “I don’t really talk to my kids too much or to my

family when I’m becoming somebody else, because sometimes these monsters are

completely different and your children aren’t safe around certain monsters.”AllHipHop.com: Do you have any special meditations

or techniques you practice before you get into a role?

 

Terrence Howard: Nah, I just try to immerse myself

with enough information about the character that I possibly can and associate

with the people that the character would be around because that’s who he’s

gonna be influenced by. We imitate those that are around us, so I spend as

little time as possible in the mirror, because the mirror’s always gonna remind

me of who I am.

 

I don’t really talk to my kids too much or to my

family when I’m becoming somebody else, because sometimes these monsters are

completely different and your children aren’t safe around certain monsters. The

love of your children is going to prevent you from climbing that next tier into

absolute bestial nature, and some of these characters are like that. But I

isolate myself – it’s a great deal of isolation for a while, hard on

relationships.

 

Girlfriends have a hard time understanding that

I’m gonna be gone for the next two months. I may not call you. It doesn’t mean

that I’m not thinking about you, but I won’t be able to call you for the next

couple of months because I won’t exist. When I come out hopefully everything is fine. I have yet to find a woman

that’s still there when I get back.

 

AllHipHop.com: You’ve had a variety of roles from

the comedic edge to the very dramatic, but you were kind of stuck with the bad

boy image for a little while. Did you feel like you had to break out of that?

 

Terrence Howard: Well, I knew I would never be

able to break out of that because the bad boy image was rebellious. The

rebellion, the anarchist so to speak, that is me. So I’ll never fully be able

to escape from it, but what I kept constantly trying to bring to it is the

other human qualities, characteristics, mannerisms, sensibility, vulnerability

which has been lost on the cutting room floor, or often times in the rehearsal

hall, the actors never bring that, which has brought me out of it because I’ve

been seen as human.

 

I don’t remember the last time I was picked to do

a bad boy character. I was actually thinking the other night after watching American Gangster, I said, “You

know what, it may be time for me to jump back into the monster.” I called

my agent and I was like, “You know, let’s find something a little more

grimy. Let’s get back into the grimy world and take another spin around that

block.”

 “If you do not approach it with the greatest

reverence, knowing that this may be the last time that anyone hears of this

person or sees them alive, you lend your spirit to them [so] you better make

sure you know what you’re doing.”AllHipHop.com: How much value do you place on your

involvement in the more historical movies like Pride, Boycott, King Of The World where you played

Muhammad Ali… and now you’re [possibly] doing the Thurgood Marshall role [in The Crusaders]. How much do you

put on that in educating not just the African-American community, but America

at large about these people that really changed history.

 

Terrence Howard: Well those are the most

frightening ones because they carry the most weight with them. The magnitude

that you bring to a character like that, oftentimes the individual isn’t as

well known as you have come to know him. You have the responsibility and become

a part of that individual’s legacy. If you do not approach it with the greatest

reverence, knowing that this may be the last time that anyone hears of this

person or sees them alive, you lend your spirit to them [so] you better make

sure you know what you’re doing. You gotta know that you’re going to affect the

rest of their life forever.

 

They’re talking about doing [a] Richard Pryor [movie]

now and there’s a lot of talk about whether I want to be a part of that. I’m

scared to death to step into that because there’s so much about Richard that

has to be told well. It cannot be glazed over, and I have to take on the

tenacity of Richard and the demons also that plagued him that ultimately led to

his death. Sometimes you don’t want to get caught up in there, but sometimes

you can’t help but get caught in that hurricane of activity.

 

AllHipHop.com: Aside from your recent role on

Broadway and Iron Man, any last words

on things that you’re working on?

 

Terrence Howard: I produced, arranged and wrote my

album with my producing partner who is my bass player Miles Mosley. It’s called

Shine Through and it comes out in

September, me and the Band of Kings.Click here to read the AllHipHop.com Iron Man review

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