You never know what you’re learning today that might come in handy tomorrow. This story blew my mind.
The first time Ice Cube met John Singleton, it was backstage at The Arsenio Hall Show. Cube was there to give Arsenio a piece of his mind because the show wouldn’t let NWA on. Somehow NWA were “too dangerous” even though the booty-shaking 2 Live Crew were “acceptable” talk show material. Cube had opinions.
While the staff kept him and Arsenio from crossing paths, an intern for the show recognized him. “I have the perfect movie role for you.”
The kid was a junior in college, and pitching the very recently famous Ice Cube on being in a movie. Despite the kid never having made a move before and the rapper never before having acted. Details.
Ice Cube said no.
Then they ran into each other a year later. “I’m a senior now, remember me?” “No.” The kid reminded him – again – that he had the PERFECT role for him.
I know I spoiled it already that this kid is John Singleton, but seriously – just process the joy of this story with me. You know where it’s going, but damn – the audacity, confidence, and dogged persistence is beautiful.
Oh, and then after their second meeting, we get THIS twist –
Almost another year later, they run into each other a third time. This time they get to talking about movies in general. See, when Cube was in high school, he skipped out on a guidance counselor meeting and was randomly assigned two general courses: typing and film.
(psst – this is the whole reason for the post, this is nuts)
A quick note on the typing class. Cube was a natural at typing. He finished his work fast and then would have nothing to. Another kid in the class asked him he ever wrote raps. At the time, he did not. Finishing his work early and this other kid is the luck that launched his rap career.
As for the film class, it introduced him to all sorts of stuff a kid in LA wasn’t going to see on his own. Citizen Kane, stuff like that. As he started talking to a young John Singleton, they found they had a common language for appreciating the medium.
Singleton chatted Cube up so long that the party ended and he had to ask him for a ride home. Ice Cube begrudgingly agreed. Singleton told him, “I have the perfect role for you.” Cube said, “No.”
9 months later, NWA is starting to come apart and Ice Cube gets a script from his manager. Manager tells him he should do this reading on a Monday. Cube holds the script until Thursday, never cracks it, and then shows up to read for a part.
He walks in and you already know who is sitting there. John Singleton. “I told you!”
The audition goes terribly. “You didn’t even read it, did you?” Singleton asks. He goes on to tell Cube it’s OK, but just go home and read it, then come back in a week and try one more time. If it doesn’t work then it doesn’t work, but he’s as confident now as he’s ever been it will.
John Singleton saw something in Ice Cube that Ice Cube couldn’t see in himself.
Until he cracked that script and realized he could play any one of these characters in this movie. This was a story about his neighborhoods, his life, his people. It was Boyz n the Hood.
Cube went back, read for Singleton, and got hired.
It’s pretty cool how one persistent person can change your life. And it’s also holy-hell unbelievable how Ice Cube skipped a guidance counselor session, got randomly assigned to typing and film, and effectively built his entire life and career off of the raps and movies which followed.
You never know what you’re learning now that you might use later.
I heard Ice Cube tell this story to Marc Maron on the WTF pod. I can’t recommend this one enough. Reflecting on this story Cube said, “No matter how new you are to an industry, follow your vision.”