2015 is a special year for Chris Rock for a couple of reasons. Not only did he celebrate his 50th birthday, but he has also released Top Five, a critically acclaimed movie that he stars in, wrote and directed. To mark this career high, we rang him up and asked him to comment on the milestones of his Hollywood career, from parking Axel Foley's vehicle to channeling his inner zebra. Prepare to Rock and role...
Krush Groove (1985) — Person Standing Next To Club Phone During Fight
"Oh my God. I was an extra and it was like being in a herd of cattle — you'd show up every day and they'd throw you in scenes. I remember just being enamored with Run DMC and the Fat Boys and Sheila E. I think Prince visited Sheila E on set one day. When you're doing a movie, the cast is the first team, the stand-ins are the second team, and the extras are the third team. But unlike sports there's almost no way of moving up. There's no circumstance where if you're in second team you're getting that break! Luckily, I made it through somehow. I haven't seen Krush Groove in probably 20 years. It plays on VH1 and MTV all the time. It's a music movie."
Beverly Hills Cop II (1987) — Parking Valet
"That was a surreal experience. That's an experience that doesn't happen to anybody. I was the biggest Eddie Murphy fan you can imagine. Me and my friend Fred Barton, we saw Beverly Hills Cop three times the first day it came out. We just wouldn't leave. 'Oh yeah, let's do it again.' Doing a movie twice was normal. Doing it three times was, 'Whoa! We like Eddie.' We did Trading Places twice, we did 48 Hours twice, but this one we did three times. To do that, have it on VHS, and then the next thing I know I'm in number two... it's crazy! It's insane. Eddie saw me do stand-up at a comedy club and thought I was funny. He met me afterwards, let me hang with his 30-person entourage and then put me in the movie."
New Jack City (1991) — Pookie
"It's over 20 years later and I can honestly say I see New Jack City three or four times a week on TV. It's on literally every day. I would never, ever have guessed that while we were doing it. I've been in movies that have made more money at the box office, but in terms of cultural impact it's the biggest thing I've ever been in. When it came out, people saw me as Pookie. If you're famous you get offered a lot of drugs, but around that time crack dealers kept offering me crack! That was a little odd. I'd be walking down the street and someone would toss me some crack. It's a sign of welcome. 'Hey, Pookie, have some crack!' I was young, living in Bed-Stuy with my parents in the middle of the crack epidemic. It didn't take a lot for me to work out how to play this role. I'd lived around crackheads for years. And I gotta hand it to Mario Van Peebles — he really worked with me. Pookie's the heart of New Jack City, you know?"
Beverly Hills Ninja (1997) — Joey
"A good movie is like a great agent, always selling you and getting you work. A bad movie is like a stalker, fucking up your day! You're minding your own business and it just turns up and pisses you off. Like Beverly Hills Ninja. I wonder if some great director has ever been sitting at home, flipping channels, seen me in that and gone, 'I gotta get Chris Rock! I think he should do drama. You know who should play Nat King Cole? Chris Rock!' No-one is saying that. Beverly Hills Ninja is horrible. Fucking horrible. And I'm not even the star of it. Chris Farley is the star. But I've bumped into people who have raved about Beverly Hills Ninja. And I look at every one of them like they're crazy. I call security."
Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) — Lee Butters
"That was one of the biggest thrills of my life, joining that cast. When I was a kid, my parents got a VCR and passed down their Betamax to us. And we literally only had four movies for Betamax: Lethal Weapon, Staying Alive, A Soldier's Story and Eddie Murphy: Delirious. So I knew every freaking word of Lethal Weapon. To go from watching this movie every day to being in a sequel of it was just really surreal. Joe Pesci is one of those guys that is funny in real life. He's funnier in real life than he is in the movies. As soon as he walked on set people would get excited. There wasn't a lot of rehearsal. Dick Donner's style is to set up seven cameras and let every scene roll. We were just kind of winging it. I think we started filming the movie with a 40-page script. We freewheeled. I'm so mad Mel had his episode — it would have been nice to squeeze two more Lethal Weapons out. I guess if they do one now I could be the Danny Glover character, with Bradley Cooper as Mel Gibson. I'll be the old guy: 'I'm too old for this shit!'"
Dogma (1999) — Rufus
"That is a weird, weird film. That's a movie I haven't seen in forever. It's something that might one day get a remake, I feel. Kevin made it so small. He made an independent version of that movie and I have a feeling that some young filmmaker is going to make the Marvel version of it. There could be a huge $80 million version of Dogma. It's got so many big ideas in it. The main thing I remember is how enamored we all were with Alanis Morissette. Remember how big she was then? Alanis was Taylor Swift then!"
Head Of State (2003) — Mays Gilliam
"My first shot at directing. Looking back at it, there was a certain amount of arrogance on my part. 'I'm going to do whatever I want!' It's weird — that movie was four years before Obama, so the thought of a black President was a joke at the time. I had a good time doing it, but if I could do a do-over on any of my movies, it would be that one. I wish I knew then what I know now. If I could have another crack at it, it'd be a lot more like Top Five. There'd be a lot more drama in it. It wouldn't nearly play as silly — it wouldn't be like the Wayans Brothers movie it plays like. I realise now that in order to get the big laughs you need drama and tension. When you're going from joke to joke, that's just junk food. It's not a real meal. It would be a funnier movie because I'd make it more dramatic."
Madagascar (2005) — Marty (voice)
"I guess I will always be the zebra from Madagascar. It's not a bad thing, I guess. There are worse things to be than the zebra from Madagascar. One odd thing I've noticed is that when I'm on a tour to do press for a Madagascar movie, sometimes when you get into other countries it's another voice. 'So, wait a minute... am I doing press for a movie I'm technically not in?' I guess the other voice is doing an impression of me, but you know what I mean... It's kind of funny."
Top Five (2014) — Andre Allen
"Kevin Smith, who's a friend of mine, married a journalist. And there's something cute and romantic about that. So the idea for Top Five was in my head for a while: a day in the life of a movie star, getting interviewed, falling for a girl he's only met that day. I just didn't have the balls to write it. Finally I got a little courage went for it. Fortunately, it kinda worked out. The reviews have been great and people like it. They laugh at the comedy and then at the end they're really touched. It's a really good feeling releasing a movie you've made yourself. And it's just starting. There's DVD and pay-per-view and streaming. It'll follow me for years.
It's a little exhausting directing. I'd much rather have Alexander Payne direct me and show up six months later to see the movie than to be in a dark edit suite for months at a time. That's not how I'm supposed to be in show business! It's fun on some level — you and the editor knocking it out. But it's definitely work. It ain't glamorous at all. You've got to be careful about the snacking — you try to park your car ten blocks away so you get that walk. It's a lot of negotiating: 'Okay, we had salad four days in a row so I guess we can have a burger...' Because you will get fat editing a movie. It's happened to me. They've had to roll me down the red carpet."