http://www.blackfilm.com/20050805/features/benjaminhedlund.shtml

Four Brothers: An Interview with Andre Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund

By Wilson Morales

John Singleton has a flare for knowing when the time is right for musicians and rappers to be in his films. From Ice Cube (Boyz N The Hood) to Tupac (Poetic Justice) to Tyrese (Baby Boy), he has found good roles that they can be proud of, and now he’s about to do the same with Andre Benjamin of Outkast. We saw what Andre can do earlier this year in “Be Cool” and now he’s playing one of the leads in Singleton’s next film, “Four Brothers”. Another lead in the film is Garrett Hedlund. Hedlund was seen as Brad Pitt’s cousin in “Troy” and played one the football players in last year’s hit, “Friday Night Lights”. As both of these guys are just starting out in the film business, Benjamin and Hedlund spoke to blackfilm.com about their roles in the film.


Are you getting more comfortable in your acting shoes?

Andre: I think the more I do it, the more comfortable being in that uncomfortable situation, so yeah. Even with music, when I first started, I didn’t know if I was good or not, so I didn’t know if I was good until people said, “Hey! You’re good.” So, I really don’t know.


Andre, this is your third or fourth feature that we will see you in this year. How’s the transition coming in from the music world?

Andre: The transition is easy. The actual transition, but it’s not really up to me. I’d say that it’s up to the people cause they have to accept me as Andre Benjamin playing a character more than Andre 3000 so we’ll see.


Are you taking lessons?

Andre: Haven’t had time. I had taken lessons in Actor’s workshop but that was like a couple of year ago, but I’ve been shooting, so I haven’t had time to really get back in class but I plan to get back.


John mentioned that you guys didn’t have time to rehearse, so how did you do your bonding?

Garrett: Primary, we probably became closer buddies out on the ice rink. What they didn’t force was hockey practice so these guys could learn how to skate, Andre and Tyrese.

Andre: Garrett’s a professional.

Garrett: I grew up in Minnesota, out on a farm, and I learned how to skate at a young age, so that was a great part of the film for me; to put the skates back on. I hadn’t picked up a stick in about four or five years, but yeah, we never had rehearsals, and that’s definitely something I had never done in a film. You have the time to figure out all aspects of a scene and work it out and work with these guys and really play with the options and we never got the opportunity on this but we got the opportunity spur of the moment spontaneity and to see what came out was sort of half of the mystery.


Andre, when will you know that you have fully arrived in this artistic endeavor?

Andre: I guess when people say it. I feel a certain way when I’m doing it. Like when I doing it and not thinking when I’m doing it, I feel the best, so I guess once I’m accepted by the community then I’d guess that I have done it.


Can you talk about the scene where you explain to the guys about you took care of the mother while the rest of the brothers left town?

Andre: Well, I think at that point the brothers had in their minds that I had something to do with it (mom’s death), and that it was all my fault. They were sort of asking me about something so small and it kind of pissed me off so it was like, “You’re asking questioning me and beating me about some insurance bill because I paid insurance bills?” At that point it was like, “How dare you question me about insurance bills when actually I paid everything” and with that, things turned.


Can you talk about playing hockey?

Andre: We only had like four or five days to practice and I had never worn skates before so my ankles weren’t together so and I was really like a baby for like the first three days but by the third day, I started to pick up and like it and started to do tricks and skate backwards and spray ice…

Garrett: While wearing pads. (Laughs)


Garrett, you’re the baby in this. Are you the baby at home?

Garrett: I am, but this is a whole different one. This character got picked up on and I don’t know if he sort of deserved it but it’s definitely completely different from the other characters that I’ve played. The sort of mentality… I don’t even remember what I was thinking in a lot of those times.


Did your character have a music career?

Garrett: They have a scene that was cut out that was sort of a flashback scene of him up on stage rocking up on this head through speaker and stripping his shirt off and raising his guitar to the air. I think it will be put back in during the end credits but that will maybe answer some questions.


Andre, you co-wrote a movie with your partner. Are you going to branch out even more into producing other things in terms of movies?

Andre: I think you are talking about is “My Life in Idlewild”. I didn’t co-write the movie with Bryan Barber. Me and Bryan are from Atlanta, Clark University and we’ve known each other for a long time and we have always written our videos concepts together. So we wrote two video concepts and HBO got a hold of the video concepts and said, “Can you make it into a movie?” Bryan takes our video concepts and he writes the script to “My Life in Idlewild”.


Are you looking to seize more of your career by branching out anyway?

Andre: Oh yeah, most definitely. My first look deal is with Paramount and Nickelodeon and that whole MTV and I have a couple of projects that I’ll bring. I’m more of a concept writer. I haven’t gotten to the point… I haven’t taken writing classes. I don’t know anything about screenwriting that much but maybe in the future I will.


Is there a prejudice like people like yourself going from music into movies. John Singleton said that you had told him some point, “I’m interested in doing a movie” and he said, “I just blew him off” because he didn’t really take you seriously I guess until he had seen you in a couple of movies and then he realized that maybe you did have the chops. Do you feel that there that there is that sense out there?

Andre: Most definitely, but I don’t think it’s entirely prejudice. I’ve done characters all throughout my career like the “hey ya guy”. I think people get attached to that character and don’t want to see me in anything else or can’t see me in anything else and I have a problem because I can’t pull off the job playing another character. So it’s kind of like a hindrance so a lot of casting directors may feel like people may see me as the guy dancing around in the video. I think there’s a lot of pressure going into this.


But you’re working hard to overcome that obviously?

Andre: The only thing I can do is do the job and play a character to the tee. It’s not even up to me at the point; it’s up to the audience.


What are your musical tastes?

Garrett: I was a big fast Outkast before Andre joined the film and I was very excited to work with Andre on this; to work with a great cast and a great director and I feel very fortunate.


Who’s a better skater, Andre or Mark or better rapper, Andre or Mark?

Garrett: That’s good one. Better skater? Mark was practicing for about a month or earlier but you can still see the un-cordinations. Better rapper? Heck, I don’t know. I started listening to Marky Mark once I was in Canada and I started reciting lyrics to Marky Mark once I was in Canada.


How’d he feel about that?

Garrett: He would just say, “Shut up”.

Andre: He actually sang Tyrese R & B songs too.

Garrett: I was the only one that wasn’t a singer.


How was working on “Revolver” compared to this film?

Andre: I’ve only shot 5 films to date and I’ve learned that working with different directors, they work differently. With Guy Ritchie, his shooting schedule is quick because he knows in his head; he edits a lot. He wants emotion but at the same time, he will say, “Now say this line” 50 times and four different ways; so it’s not going through the whole scene. It’s just standing there saying the same thing, four different ways and he knows how he’s going to cut it. In working with John, he’s about emotion.


How are you in shooting guns?

Andre: I think people will be pleased with this film. In “Revolver”, I play a loan shark and I think Guy Ritchie fans are just going to be happy because they got on him about the “Swept Away” thing. He’s back to the shoot-em-up Guy Ritchie.


Does it take place in London?

Andre: You don’t know where it takes place. We shot in London and in other places but it’s sort of multi-racial, multi-cultural and different accents. It’s mixed up.


Will you have a cut on the soundtrack for this film?

Andre: No, I don’t think so because I think it’s too late now; maybe the Guy Ritchie movie which comes out in September. I’d love to do songs for soundtracks but I just haven’t had time.


As you make this transition, what won’t you do in the film business?

Andre: There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do right now because the challenge for is to get into character and play something that I’m totally not. That’s what I get out of it. If the story is good, then it’s a challenge to get into character. I actually had gotten a script to play a homosexual disco guy, the story of Sylvester. I have to make a decision of when to do it. I can’t just jump out and my first acting role is playing a homosexual, but as actor, you have to do it. You have to act. You can’t have any reservations about it.


Will your music suffer? Are you worried about that?

Andre: I do worry about it but honestly, it’s a blessing because the film thing came at a great time. A lot of people don’t know that we have been doing OutKast for ten years. “Hey Ya” was the first big single and it was our biggest album to date, but we had been doing it for so long, you get to the point that you start looking for new inspiration and things to do. I think I will always do music in some form or fashion.


From “Troy” to “Friday Night Lights” to this, are you having a good time getting roles?

Garrett: Yeah, I have a good time getting roles. I been fortunate enough to work with a lot of good people to sort of sit back and take from them and learn. It’s definitely different character in those films. This character takes a lot of criticism and half the time I would be looking at the screen and I don’t even recognize who that is. So that was fun.


Did you have to read for this?

Garrett: Yes, I read with John. I hadn’t met John prior to that so I went in and was able to get it that way and I’ve to read for all the films I’ve done so far and I’m proud about that. Did you meet the guys before and see how you would react with them. I met Mark after they had been considering me for the role and didn’t meet these guys until Toronto for the table read. We got out there a week before we started filming. We didn’t have time to sit back and bond and truly none of that was even forced; all of us just sort of naturally got along. Our personalities just sort of clicked and that was really fortunate for us to not force friendliness.


Sofia Vergara mentioned that it was torture being in the cold.

Garrett: The part that was torture was so big and trying to be a rock star that he didn’t concentrate on wearing any warm fucking clothes. So while all these guys are outside wearing nice warm jackets, I have this very thin leather jacket and it was freezing.


Do you have anything coming up next?

Andre: Yeah, I think I do, but we haven’t announced it yet.


Was there any significance to the tattoo you had in the film?

Garrett: Yeah. It was supposed to be the band’s name. There’s a scene that will be put back in during the end credits.


Was there anything in the script about your sexuality?

Garrett: Yeah. It was banter in the script which I don’t know. He’s a foster kid. He went from foster house to foster house so it implies an issue there. Whatever happened there definitely wasn’t spoken of.

FOUR BROTHERS opens on August 12, 2005 

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