Terry Crews may not yet be a household name, but chances are that most people will probably recognize his face. Whether it was the role of Chris Rock’s father on the television sitcom Everybody Hates Chris, the family patriarch on TBS’s Are We There Yet?, President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho in Idiocracy, or the pec-flexing, tiger-riding Old Spice spokesman in a series of recent Tim and Eric-directed commercials, Crews has steadily kept busy since 2000, when he made his big screen debut alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger in The 6th Day. A former NFL player who majored in Art in college, Crews has built a reputation for himself as the musclebound hulk with impeccable comic timing, often stealing scenes in movies with bigger names. But Terry’s star is rising, and earlier this year, Sylvester Stallone saw fit to cast him in his new actioner, The Expendables, which comes out on home video this week.
RT was lucky enough to get the chance to chat with Terry, and what we quickly discovered was that he is a huge (literally and figuratively) movie lover, and like any movie lover, he found his favorites hard to pin down: “I just love movies so much, and I have so many reasons that I love certain things. It runs the whole gamut, but I’m going to give it a shot. I’m always going to feel like I left something out.” He was so excited to talk about his Five Favorites, in fact, that he actually gave us six, as well as an Honorable Mention, and continued to geek out well into the second half of the interview. Since we aren’t ones to argue with President Camacho, here are all seven of Terry Crews’s Five Favorite Films!
First one on my list is Do the Right Thing. Spike Lee, man. I actually saw that twenty times in the theaters. That’s before VCRs; I mean, that was like right when the VCRs were kind of happening, and you had to wait a year for something to come out on VHS. It wasn’t the quick turnaround like we have right now. But Do the Right Thing changed my life in so many ways, because I had never seen… it was a movie that was comedic, yet so powerful. I didn’t really have a definition, because I’d never seen black people on screen like that, and it was just one of those things. It was my era; it was my generation. There was a lot of blaxploitation before that, you know, and you could see people on TV, and all this stuff.
But I remember I was in college, and it was kind of like this empowerment. Spike had made She’s Gotta Have It, but then Do the Right Thing really broke it down. It changed my life. It made me want to get into the business like never before. Totally. I was like, I am a Spike Lee nut; I want to do this. I thought it should have won Best Picture that year; it just meant so much. It just meant a lot to everybody. There was a lot of race relations stuff, and just think of the stars that came out of that: Sam Jackson, Martin Lawrence, and Spike himself, and Rosie Perez, and John Turturro. I mean, it’s just… Whew! It just changed the game, changed the game.
And then I’ll go to my next one. Aliens. Jim Cameron, Sigourney Weaver. Dude, again, I am a “big movie” guy. I like the small, poignant indie, but you know, give me a Summer flick all day long. That’s what I grew up on, that’s my era. I mean, I remember seeing Star Wars at the drive-in; I’m that guy. But Aliens really upped the game for what the horror genre could be, you know what I mean? Because it was this weird mix of action and horror. You know, the first one was like straight horror, like oh my god, the creepiness, the ickiness of this thing. But then in Aliens, you’re like, “Yo, they got Marines! It’s like that? This is nuts!” It just created this frenzy in me that was like, oh, this is how it’s supposed to be done. I’ll never forget it. Any time Aliens is playing, I can’t turn away. I cannot.
And then I’ll go to my third one, which of course I would say… Most people would go with The Empire Strikes Back, but I gotta go with Star Wars, the original. The Summer tentpole, it was something we had never seen before. I remember, back in the day it was all those exorcism movies, you know, it was the same time when all that was going on when they were like, “The Tempter!” and you turn around and it’s a scary movie. And then there was Taxi Driver, and all these weird… Everything had a weird aura to it, you know what I mean? And my mother was like, “I can’t take you to the movies! You’ll see something crazy!”
So my aunt took me to see Star Wars. That was the only thing that we could see as kids. It was either that or The Apple Dumpling Gang, and I was like, “We can’t go that young!” [laughs] But Star Wars, man, I mean… It was really the sci-fi thing. Still to this day, I’m a sci-fi nut. I love it. It’s one of those things that influences me to this day.
I want to go into another movie that I gotta bring up. The Pianist with Adrien Brody, Roman Polanski, the whole thing. Now, I don’t endorse his moral behaviors, but I have to say man, that movie… What he did with that character put me there, and I had never been there. Literally, I’m in the theater, and dude, I’m crying, I’m like, “Yo, this is crazy!” I go by emotional moments; if I walk out of the theater and I’m actually changed, you know what I mean? You know, you see the world in a different way. That’s the power of movies, to me. Like, when you go in and you saw the world one way, but when you walk out, I’m like, “I saw the world in a whole different way.” And Adrien Brody’s performance really taught me what an actor should do and should be. He gave everything he had. It was an awesome performance, an awesome movie, and I would just encourage everybody to see that one. That’s one of my favorite movies of all time. I bought that sucker; I got it on Blu-Ray, you know? [laughs]
Another one that I have to say – because I am an artist, I am a graphic designer and an art guy – is 300. That literally was a seismic shift in filmmaking for me, because Zack Snyder took this thing in such a creative direction. It was like, every frame, you could frame on your wall. You could literally take each piece of that movie, frame it, and it would stand as a piece of art, and that’s what I loved about that movie. Gerard [Butler] is my friend; we did Gamer together, and that’s all I could talk about on set. I was like his 300 groupie on that whole movie, you know? [laughs] But the power and the simplicity of what it was all about, too. Zack got to the archetype of what all the characters were; the story was simple, it was powerful.
The next one is The Thing, the remake with Keith David. That was the first Rated-R movie my mother ever let me see, and oh, dude, I was scarred. I was scarred in a good way. [laughs] John Carpenter’s The Thing took me to a whole other place, man. I was like, “Oh my god!” It was almost like losing your virginity. [laughs] Remember what I said about coming out of the theater a different way? The Thing was so violent and so creatively crazy, no one had ever seen anything like that on screen. You know, heads growing legs and walking away? I think Rob Bottin was the special effects guy on that. But, you know, heads ripping themselves off, dogs having three heads, it was just “Oh my god, there’s no stopping this!” One of my favorite movies; if it’s ever on, I can’t turn it off. I just can’t. It’s impossible.
And the thing is, you see how most of the movies that I’m mentioning have always had copies, you know what I mean? It’s like, any movie that’s out there, you can see they’re trying to be like The Thing, or they’re trying to be like Aliens. It’s so wild how you see this kind of dynamic, because it changed for those filmmakers when they saw it too. So those are my top five for today. I tell you, that’s so hard to say. [laughs] Again, I love movies man. I just love it.
Oh! I’ve got an Honorable Mention; can I get an Honorable Mention? Roger & Me, Michael Moore. I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. For me, that changed the whole documentary game. Usually, docs were PBS specials or that sort of thing, but it was like, “Oh my god, this is actually entertaining!” [laughs] And Mike, you know, he made sure he crossed that line. I remember it was going up against Batman, so it was like Roger & Me and Batman, and actually, Do the Right Thing was coming out right around that same time. It was a real watershed moment for me. But my Honorable Mention is Roger & Me. What it did for the doc game, really made me respect the power of a great documentary. I could get the same great emotion from that as I did anything.
Next, Terry talks about being a sci-fi nut and what it was like working under Sylvester Stallone.
Rotten Tomatoes: You mentioned your art background, and you also mentioned how you’re a sci-fi guy. With that in mind, is that something you pay special attention to when you watch a movie? The special effects and costuming?
Terry Crews: Always. To me, it’s one of those things where, if you don’t do it right, it’s painfully evident, you know what I mean? I’m not a big fan of… I’ll tell you when they got it wrong, was when they did the third Alien with the CGI aliens. It just crushed my heart, it crushed me. It took me away. You know, I was like, “Nooo.” When you can’t see a craftsman doing his thing… I remember looking at Rick Baker and the stuff he did; he worked on Norbit with us. I got a chance to meet him, and you could just kind of see it in his face, like, “Dude, they’re really messing it up, aren’t they?” He didn’t say it, he didn’t say it, but you could kind of see it. You know, he’s a real craftsman. It’s okay to put it in when you need it, but man, you really, really have to know your stuff. That’s why, again, I respect a Zack Snyder, a guy who can actually get the CGI right and mix it with the art and mix it with certain great things and make it what it is.
I’m a fan of Blade Runner. You go back to Blade Runner and it still holds up to this day, whereas other movies… When you look at the first Tron right now, you will be like, “Whoa…” [laughs] You know what I mean? It makes you pause. I loved Tron when I was a kid, and now you’re like, “Whoa, why did I like that?” I’m really looking forward to Tron: Legacy, though. You can almost feel Disney’s like, “Now we get a chance to do it right.” Every artist in it is like, “Dude, we get a chance to remake Tron!” Because now it’s like, finally the effects caught up to what they had in their heads. I rented Tron for my kids, and I was like, “Uh-oh,” because they were milling around, saying, “I’m hungry.” They’re not into this like I was into this. [laughs]
It’s like listening to old records as opposed to the new, mixed-down… You know, it’s iPod vs. a record player, man. And back then, you talk about editing, editing was so much slower. Things lasted forever! Go watch Wargames now. Watch Wargames and you will flip at how the camera never moves. The perfect example now is, you watch an old time trailer, you know, from an old movie back in the ’60s or ’70s, and you’re like, “I would never go see that!” [laughs] Once people started to get it, it’s like ever year, it gets better. They know what resonates with people. It just gets better and better and better. You can’t help it; you have to improve. It’s like the NFL; they’re faster, they’re stronger. What’re you gonna do?
I want to talk to you a little bit about The Expendables. You were a teenager during the ’80s, so you grew up during sort of the golden age of action films, when Stallone and Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis were cranking out those classics. What kind of experience was it for you to actually share the screen with some of them?
TC: Aw man, now I feel bad, because I should have put this movie on the list. But what can I say? If it was a top ten list, it would be here. Rocky III. Sly and Mr. T, you know? People don’t understand, Mr. T changed what villains are in the movies. No one had ever seen a real villain that ferocious. He had to be invented. He’s like, “Why don’t you get yourself a real man?” I remember being in the theater, a little theater, Northwest Theater in Flint, Michigan, sitting there watching Rocky III. And then to be there, looking Sly in the eyes on set, telling me where to go and what to do. It was very surreal, man. It was one of those things where I would freeze up like, “Uh-oh,” and I also realized if I don’t bring it, Sly isn’t going to be happy. [laughs] I also knew that I was brought there for a reason, and this was my chance, and this is what I gotta do, and Sly is depending on me. He took me under his wing and basically told me, “I’m going to make you an action star.” And I was so honored, man. It’s just one of those things that, you realize that you can’t even put it on a plaque and put it on a wall. You just have to keep it in your heart, because it’s yours. You know, it’s just yours, there’s nothing you can say to anybody that’ll say, “Oh look, this is the moment.” I keep it right in here, man, and I’m like, “Dude, Sly is my boy.” You know what I mean? Just saying he’s a friend… I mean, he’s one of the greatest filmmakers who ever did it. What can I say? I’m floored.
TC: Well you know, the thing is, Sly saw it. Sly saw it, and he gave it to me. But this is another thing; I was really, really nervous, because some people were like, “What is he doing in that? He’s a comedian, he’s funny, etc.” And then, to come out, and everybody’s like, “Dude, there’s no question.” What can I say? It’s like going into a [football] game and getting four sacks, you know? It’s like, “Why did he get drafted first round? Where did he come from? He went to a small school, Allegheny in Pennsylvania,” or something. And then you go get four sacks, and everybody’s like, “Got it! We understand now.” Sly gave me the… You know, I did the whole cavalry thing [ed. note: referring to a scene in The Expendables]; he made sure he established me as that. He saw it in me before anybody saw it. And I’m thankful. I can’t wait to do the second one. I am ready, in shape, and ready to do whatever I need to do.
TC: See, you have to give people what they want. And that’s what I’m saying. I did Gamer, but not a lot of people saw that movie. People noticed me in that movie after a while, but… Now that this has kind of broke all the way open, it’s just really wide open for me now, because now I have a two-way goal. It’s not farfetched for people to see me as a dad on TV, but it’s also not farfetched to see me blowing away fifty people. [laughs] I know I’m in a very, very special place, because not a lot of people can handle both things. It’s a very, very unique spot, and I’m just honored to have it, and I don’t plan on losing it. I’m willing to do it all. I mean, more Old Spice commercials, more of all that stuff. [laughs] Whatever I can do – and do well – is what I want to do.
The Expendables comes out on DVD and Blu-Ray in the US tomorrow, November 23rd.