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Grave Discussions: Talking With Anthony Anderson

You probably don’t realize it, but lately you can’t go to the movies without seeing a trailer for an Anthony Anderson movie. The star of Exit Wounds, See Spot Run, and Barbershop, Anderson recently played opposite a mocking marsupial in Kangaroo Jack and will kick tail with Jet Li in Cradle 2 the Grave. Few could argue with the fact that Anderson is the hardest working young talent in show business. Our first question seemed obvious.

filmcritic.com: Are there any scripts that you pass on?

Anthony Anderson: There are, man. And it’s wild, because some of them, after reading them, I realize that I’d love to do (the movie), but I end up passing on them. And a lot of times, the movies don’t end up being the successes that we thought they were going to be. But a couple I passed on because of my schedule have gone on to be great. Rat Race comes to mind. I was supposed to do that, but I was shooting another movie at the exact same time and couldn’t get out of it. I really wanted to work with Rowan Atkinson.

All right, stay with me here. You had three movies released in 1999, four in 2000 and four in 2001. Now, this year, you have four more movies scheduled for release, but in 2002, you only had one movie come out. What the hell happened?

Uh, what movie was that in 2002?

A little movie called Barbershop.

Oh yeah, a little movie called Barbershop….

Do you recall that one?

I try to forget that one (laughs). But I was actually working on a lot of other projects that year. Do you know what took me out of the loop for so long? That was around the time we shot Kangaroo Jack. I was in Australia for five and a half months. Normally, if I’m up in Canada or shooting a movie in the States, I can squeeze in a couple. But we were overseas for over half a year. So even though you didn’t see me, I was busy working. I’m going to try and do at least two movies a year. That’s my pace.

I haven’t seen Cradle 2 the Grave yet…

Neither have I.

Well, hopefully you can at least help me with this. In the trailer, I swear I spotted you driving a tank.

You did, and that’s probably the only thing in the trailer that you saw me do, was just sitting on my ass driving a tank, and I’m a little upset by that. You must have seen the good trailer. I’ve only seen the trailer where they didn’t show any clips of me!

Tell me about your experiences behind the firepower.

We shot that particular scene over the course of a couple of weeks. It was pretty wild. I was shooting an assault gun mounted on top of a tank. I’m shooting off a 50-caliber assault gun, and then Tom Arnold and I get to shoot the tank. It immediately puts you in the frame of mind of a soldier at war. Here we are on set, shooting blanks. But it gives you the kick, it’s giving you the noise, and it’s spitting out fire. It really takes you there. We were sitting on top of an Israeli war tank, and you realize that people did this for real, people lost their lives doing this shit for real. It definitely gives you a greater appreciation for the men and women who really are doing this to preserve our freedom and our lifestyle at home. That’s what it did for me.

You do a lot of ensemble work. Aside from Atkinson, do you have a short list of actors you’d still like to work with?

I do. It includes Jack Nicholson and Tom Hanks. James Earl Jones is my favorite actor. I really respect and admire his work. It’s why I do what I do.

Three very serious actors. Do you see yourself going in that direction in the future?

I do. I’ve trained at this since I was nine years old. I went to the High School for the Performing Arts [in Los Angeles], and went to Howard University on a talent scholarship. This is what I do. These comedies and these action films have come to me rather quickly and on a consistent basis, but I’m a very serious dramatic actor. Comedy just comes second nature to me. When you are watching these films, that’s just me up there having fun. But that is definitely what I will do in the future.

So we may be a few years away from hearing the title ‘Academy Award nominee Anthony Anderson.’

Count on it. In five years, I will at least have a nomination. That’s the goal I set for myself.

Do you get into the Oscar hype?

No. It’s still like a good old boy fraternity, man. We had a good night last year, but that’s it. It’s unfortunate that a lot of these films I’ve done, they don’t get recognized by the Academy. The action/adventure films, the comedies… that’s hard work. It’s hard to get people to sit in the theater and forget their reality and laugh with you. I wish the Academy could recognize films like that.

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