Common, T.I., and RZA join 'Gangsters' cast

155554__common_lAmerican Gangster, the true-life drugs-and-cops epic that Ridley Scott is currently shooting in New York City with Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, sounds like a fascinating project, not least for its powerhouse cast. Today, Variety reported that the cast is expanding to include rappers Common (pictured), T.I., and RZA, as well as Washington’s Inside Man costar Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Now, PopWatch is generally excited to see rappers acting in movies, since they often bring an outsized theatricality and charisma to their roles. We’ll go see Ice Cube in just about anything that doesn’t have small, annoying children in it. But we’re a little worried about this lineup; when a film casts that many rappers, it’s easy to wonder if it’s not just a marketing ploy, a shortcut that’ll give the movie some instant street cred. Or worse, a lazy way to fill stereotypical gangsta/drug-pusher roles.

Plus, it’s worth noting that Universal killed this project a couple years ago over budget concerns, when then-director Antoine Fuqua wanted to fill supporting roles with name actors like Ray Liotta and John C. Reilly. Now that Universal has revived the project, with A-lister Crowe taking the role that was to have gone to Benicio Del Toro, there’s probably even less room in the budget for a supporting cast. Nothing against Common, T.I., and RZA — they may even be the actors best suited to their roles — but they’re a lot cheaper to hire than Oscar-nominated pros.


Comments (8 total) Add your comment
  • jon

    Don’t know about T.I. or Common but RZA is surprisingly subtle in front of the camera (as all the rappers usually are). However, with Denzel and Russell in the same movie, I’m surprised the filmmakers would have screen time left for supporting players…

  • ceej

    RZA is a very mellow guy… just because he rapped (past tense) with WuTang doesn’t mean he’s a naturally angry fellow. What, you think all rappers walk around pissed 24/7 C’mon Gary! It’s called ACTing for a reason!
    I’m looking forward to seeing Common (who is not an ‘angry’ rapper either, by the way) on the screen. And I’m glad to see my man Chewy working again.

  • Ceballos

    I’m just extremely happy to hear that Chiwetel Ejiofor joined the cast. I don’t know what role he plays, but I thought he and Denzel had GREAT chemistry in “Inside Man”

  • Sally

    “However, with Denzel and Russell in the same movie, I’m surprised the filmmakers would have screen time left for supporting players…” So true, since this is common’s First movie (that I know of) he’s probably getting day wages. Russell+Denezel = $20M a piece + back end and front end, which leaves little for anybody else.
    As for rappers with first names like “T.I” he’s going to have to do better than that. it’s not a “marquee” name.
    And for producers to think that rappers draw an urban money-paying audience is foolish…most urban folk are trying to find the pirated copy or the cheap DVD…

  • Jasper

    I love Tip “T.I.” Harris as a rapper, but after ATL I don’t think movies are for him. Common might do alright because his personality seems like it could transfer well. Although, he’s not a hard core rapper so if his role calls for that it may be too much of a stretch for his first film. It’s good Denzel & Russell are working together again. It’s been a lot of years, and two Oscars since Virtuosity. And I’m always glad to see Chiwetel!

  • EP Sato

    I’ve never been a fan of Rapper Actors, but my main man Andre from Outkast turned out okay. But for every Ludakris who turns in a high caliber performance, there’s a dozen and a half Ice T’s, Vanilla Ice and LL “I should have stayed a rapper” Cool J’s about.
    On the other hand, a flick with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Denzel? Shee-itz, that sounds like Midnight movie material right there.

  • jon

    Thank you Jasper, how could I have forgotten about “Virtuosity” back when Russell was “virtually” unknown, hahahaha. Not funny. Sorie.

  • Mimi

    I wouldn’t be worried… reading around, I realize that at least one of the rappers is playing a cop… it’s not going to be all rapper gangstas.
    There are a number of fine professional actors being cast as well, including “Chewy”, Ted Levine, John Hawkes, Carla Gugino, etc… so I think everything will work out. After all, Ridley Scott cast the little known Russell Crowe as the Gladiator, immediately after he came off playing an overweight middle aged tobacco company scientist. I think the guy knows what he’s doing.
    There may be some truth to the idea that they can’t afford bigger names, though. But this will give less well known actors a platform.

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