Kevin Hart doesn't fool around with dramatic debut in The Upside
Funnyman takes drama debut in The Upside seriously
When Kevin Hart got the role of a caretaker in the movie The Upside, his dramatic film debut, he did not fool around.
The 39-year-old recalled having serious conversations with director Neil Burger and co-star Bryan Cranston, as he was out of his comfort zone.
The US actor-comedian said in our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills: "I said, 'I am here to work. I am not here to be the star that knows everything. So, in any way, shape or form, if you feel I am not doing that, please tell me I can make the changes that need to be made to make the scene what it is supposed to be.'"
Hart added: "Bryan's concern was, 'Would Kevin be able to pull off this performance the way that we know it should be done? We know the talent Kevin has and how funny he is, but we would love to see a different side of him. And more importantly, act as the catalyst, heart, soul and emotion of the movie.'
"Our conversation was me explaining to Bryan I understood that, and I was hell-bent on not only doing that, but doing that at the highest level possible because of the company I was in."
And Hart's efforts have paid off handsomely.
Opening here tomorrow, The Upside is the Hollywood remake of the 2011 French movie The Intouchables and topped the North American box office over the weekend with US$20.4 million (S$27.6 million) - double industry expectations .
Based on a true story, it is about the friendship between a billionaire (Cranston) who becomes a quadriplegic after an accident and an ex-con (Hart) who becomes his caretaker.
The Upside was originally to be released under The Weinstein Company banner and premiered that way at the Toronto International Film Festival two years ago.
Since the company was shuttered after the sexual misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein, its assets were sold off and The Upside ended up at STX Entertainment.
Making reference to the delay in the movie's release, Hart said: "Of course, there is frustration because it is something that you want the world to see. Circumstances come up that you have no control over.
"You can only hope that somehow the people that have spent blood, sweat and tears and hours (making the movie) get rewarded by people seeing the project."
Hart recalled his research to make his character authentic as he wanted to honour real-life caretakers.
He said: "Really seeing how much work goes into the job was mind-blowing, and I wanted to make sure that I did it correctly.
" We spent hours of rehearsal time where they showed me how to get a quadriplegic in and out of a chair, the proper way to dress and undress, to bathe, to put a catheter in.
"I didn't want to (just) perform it. We wanted the people who actually do the job to watch it, walk away and go, 'They did that right and that is good that they spent the time to learn it.'"
Hart also felt his character resonated with him.
"He gets a hard lesson in understanding what happiness is. He thought money equalled happiness and (when) you (get) the money, there is no reason why you should be unhappy.
"And becoming this man's friend, he slowly realised that money wasn't everything.
"I am in a position now where I am financially successful, and it took me getting here to realise that the money isn't what keeps that permanent smile on your face or puts the pumping of blood in your heart.
"It is the relationships and the family that you have around you, that you know isn't going to change regardless, that is what it is all about."
Hart is someone who can find the funny in anything - "you just have to look for it".
He said: "You are talking about a guy who found humour at my mother's funeral. So, with anything in comedy, I take real life and I take the worst of my life. I talk about it and it acts as my therapy and muse.
"People relate to and identify with you more, and you become universal because everybody goes through problems, but everybody doesn't like to talk about their problems.
"But when you talk about it openly and you expose it, you become vulnerable and human. So you laugh at the fact that I am human and I am not afraid to expose that."
Our interview happened before the Oscars debacle, when Hart was offered the job of host at next month's Academy Awards. It was retracted last month when old homophobic tweets of his surfaced on Twitter and he refused to apologise for them.
Hart stepped down from the job, then apologised in a seemingly redundant gesture.
Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres took on the task of encouraging him to reapply for the host job. And it looked like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might agree to take him back.
Another backlash ensued online. Hart ended his quest by declaring publicly he is "over it". It now looks like the Oscars will go on without a host for the first time in nearly 30 years.
I am sure Hart will find the funny in this as well. Watch for it on the upcoming comedy tour he has planned.