Four Brothers, an urban action flick from Boyz N the Hood director John Singleton, separates Andre 3000 from Andre Benjamin. The flamboyant stage persona Andre 3000 conquered the pop-music universe as half of the hip-hop act OutKast. But after the runaway success of the double-album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Andre 3000 takes a breather while his secret identity, soft-spoken Atlanta native Andre Benjamin, tries his hand at TV and film projects, including an animated series debuting next year on the Cartoon Network. In his hometown to promote Four Brothers, Benjamin talked about the two faces of Andre.
In Four Brothers you play Jeremiah, the most respectable and non-violent of the title siblings. Since Andre 3000 is never low-key, was it a challenge to dial it back?
I'm actually closer to Jeremiah than people think. Drama is easier for me because I guess it's closer to my true personality. Andre 3000 is a character, and I get enjoyment out of playing it big on stage. The bad part is at casting calls. When I'm there, my job is damn near harder than De Niro's job. I have to dismantle the whole idea of Andre 3000, then I have to be the character I'm supposed to be. It's like a two-part job, which may slow me down.
The other brothers, played by Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund, get almost all of the action scenes. Did you feel left out?
I only got to duck the bullets. Our bonding happened at hockey lessons. It was my first time ever ice skating, let alone playing hockey. I hated going to practice every day, because it was already like freezing cold in Toronto. Then you get on the ice and skate? Tyrese, he had Rollerbladed before, so he was used to balancing on a little blade -- I'd never even done that before. But by the third day, I really started to like it. Maybe I fell enough that I wasn't afraid to fall any more. So I started skating backward and spraying ice on people.
Was Four Brothers very different from Be Cool, your first big-screen appearance?
In Be Cool I felt like I was just coming in and doing a cameo. I didn't have a lot of time to get to know the people, but I got to talk to John Travolta for a while, and Uma for a minute. But I learned a lot. I was so nervous going to work for the first day -- You've got Travolta! You've got veterans! -- and I'm just making sure I'm standing right. Seeing Travolta and Uma make mistakes or flub lines, I thought, "OK, they're human, it's cool." Acting's not about being perfect -- you just need to be in the moment.
OutKast fans hope you'll eventually do for films what OutKast did for music. Will your upcoming film My Life in Idlewild be like that?
It'll be closer. My Life in Idlewild will be released at the top of next year. For an early video concept for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, director Brian Barber and I had this idea to shoot a short called "For a Lack of Words" as a silent movie. HBO was giving new directors money to make shorts, so we presented it to HBO and they loved it. So they said, "Can you make this into a movie?" And we said, "Yeah!" It's a musical that takes place in the 1930s -- Big Boi owns a club, and I'm a mortician -- but the music isn't totally true to the period. A couple of songs from The Love Below are in it. When people see it, it'll be closer to what they think of OutKast, even though I'm not Andre 3000 in it.
What's happening with your cartoon show [debuting fall 2006]?
It's on the Cartoon Network, it's a prime time show. Cartoon Network is really excited about it. For the first episode they're actually giving us an hour -- they hardly ever do that. It's going to be like a cartoony musical show. I can tell you it's not "me."
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