HHW: Time constraints are a mother. What was the biggest part you struggle with cutting out?
F. Gary Gray: Yeah…the first cut was like three hours long and it was tough to cut some of the stuff out because the actors were so good and the stories were so crazy. And you put all this work into researching and shooting it and it’s compelling. There will be a director’s cut, though. You’ll see more of the relationships with some of the women that’s in their lives. I don’t want to give too much away because at the end of the day, I am happy with what we are releasing.
HHW: Yeah, you can’t make it everybody happy. There’s a lot of characters not portrayed in the most positive of lights. [Former N.W.A manger] Jerry Heller for one, has been going on the record multiple times voicing his concern for how he’s portrayed. I wouldn’t say the slander he was looking for was present, though.
F. Gary Gray: Yeah, we weren’t trying to slander him! That wasn’t the idea. You are really trying to present the story in real human beings. There are days you have good days and days you have bad days. That goes for everybody on the coin and the story. You try to be…I won’t say the word ‘balanced’ but I’ll say ‘in-depth.’ You try and give some depth to these characters.
HHW: Suge Knight was another one who got plenty of camera time. Besides showing up to the set, did he ever try to block you guys legally with paperwork of any type?
F. Gary Gray: Not to my knowledge. I wasn’t there for [the shoot]. That was a commercial they were shooting for promo where Paul Hunter was the director. I was way on the other side of town.
HHW: Lastly, there are a lot of kids whose starting part with gangsta rap may be Dr. Dre–with Eminem. What could they expect to learn from Straight Outta Compton or even be moved to see it?
F. Gary Gray: If you have a dream, then this is the movie to see. Let’s think about it for a second. There’s a guy who starts mixing and scratching on turntables in his garage and then he becomes a billionaire. Then you have a guy who writes his rhymes on a peachy folder on a school bus as a teenager and he becomes a Hollywood mogul. And they grew up in dangerous and destructive environments. They didn’t have college degrees or anything like that but they changed their lives for the better. When it was time to stand up against bad deals or bad guys or oppressive forces, they did it. Everybody can identify with that.
The other part of it is, there’s no Eminem if there is no Dr. Dre. There’s no Dr. Dre if there’s no N.W.A. And I can go down that list with Tupac, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent and Kendrick Lamar. They may still exist–just in a different way.
N.W.A is the origin story. If you look at superhero movies and stuff like that, this is the origin story. And if you like any of those artists that I just mentioned, then you have to see Straight Outta Compton.
Catch Straight Outta Compton in theaters on August 14, 2015, courtesy of Universal Pictures.