Chris Rock’s Top Five was the surprise feel good comedy of 2014. Quietly made out of Hollywood’s radar, Rock independently wrote, directed and produced the film about a successful former comedian turned serious actor trying to find his way out of a creative rut. While being interviewed for his latest film, an out of character historical epic, Rock’s Andre Allen is forced to face his own hangups, insecurities and addictions during an afternoon walk through Manhattan.
The film balances a very personal story about a stand up comedian finding the voice that he thought was lost to him, but also a universal story about a man being true to himself. Chris said about finding the balance when crafting the script, “I wanted to something that felt personal, I wanted to do something with a tone you don’t see in comedy much. You know, a more realistic tone. I wanted to do something that felt closer to [how people are]. You know, what if Wolf of Wall Street was a love story?”
Rock’s film is filled with dynamic characters and talented actors portraying them, but it’s their human flaws that shine through. Each character connects in unique way, and that comes from the screenwriter rooting them in people he has known. The writer-director explained, “I’ve met most if not all of those people. Even the silly ones, the guy Cedric plays is like an amalgamation of guys that have picked me up when I’ve done gigs. Even in film you meet that guy. I just came from Australia. “The Mother-F*%#ing Man” from Australia. [There’s always] some guy like that wanting to take you around. I’ve never made out with a journalist before, but friends of mine have. Kevin Smith married one!”
Rock also wanted to use the characters to examine different aspects of the modern pop culture landscape. “There’s a lot of those people. With the character Gabrielle Union plays, I wanted to deal in reality TV but not make fun it. From a real place. They don’t just wake up screaming at each other on these shows. At some point there was an interview and they act nice and they talk nice, these are real people here.”
There’s a lot to love in Top Five. Rock has balanced his stand up career and public persona in such a way that he has built two sides of his fanbase up. The comedy fans and the arthouse independent fans. This film bridges those worlds to make an accessible, yet audacious movie. The director had this to say about those worlds colliding, “I wanted to do a comedy based in a reality that had laughs in it like a pop comedy. I wanted to make a film that felt like my stand up. I always hear comedians complain, “Well, I do dick jokes because that’s what the audience wants and you can’t get big laughs unless you do certain types of material. And I get big laughs doing whatever. I just think you can get big laughs doing any type of material. A lot of times you go to festivals and art house movies are just not fall down funny. In terms of comedy, they’re kin of polite. Sideways is a movie that I’m really influenced by. Sideways was an arthouse movie with laughs as big as the Blues Brothers. I just wanted to bridge those two worlds.”
The films climax finds Chris sharing a jail cell with an unexpected DMX. The scene goes along to succinctly sum up the message and theme behind the whole film. After nominating the performance for Best Cameo at the Nerdist Movie Awards, we had to know the steps Rock took to get him in the film. Chris was very forthcoming in how the experience went: “I will cop out to – with writing the scene, I was definitely trying to think what would be the big cameo that would work so it would make sense. I definitely though about the Hangover and Mike Tyson. I was thinking what would make sense here and DMX popped in my head. I was like, “Wow, DMX in jail, it just makes so much sense.” We called him, he was available. You know, he’s DMX, so it took a couple of days to get him there. I think we eventually had to send security to bring him or something. I forget. But once we got him in front of the camera he was amazing. You forget this guys was a big star. He was a rap star, a movie star. This guy was doing movies for Warner Bros. and putting out albums. He’s got so much charisma. Not only is it a great cameo, he blows me off the screen. The guy kind of steals the movie in one scene, he’s so good. He’s really amazing and it makes you appreciate DMX. It makes you want to put on your iPod and put on ‘Party Up’ as you leave the movie. I forgot about this. This guy should be in my Top Five.”
Top Five is available on Bluray and through digital download now.