Sean ”Puffy” Combs could have made his acting debut opposite Al Pacino in Oliver Stone’s football drama ”Any Given Sunday.” But Combs abruptly dropped out of the film, citing scheduling conflicts — and sparking rumors that the flashy starring role was too much for the bad boy rapper/ producer/ restaurateur/ magazine publisher to handle. (His replacement, Jamie Foxx, went on to earn heaps of critical praise for his performance.)
This summer, the 30 year old Combs decided to give Hollywood another chance, taking a supporting role (for union scale wages) in a $5 million independent film produced by ”Swingers” pals Jon Favreau, who directed, and Vince Vaughn, who costars. Yet even that small step into the limelight has its risks: Combs, who has acquired a public image as a gun-toting superstar, chose to portray a New York City crime boss in ”Made,” which follows two boxer wannabes who get mixed up with gangsters. (The rapper turned actor’s real life brush with the law continues to make headlines: this week, a Manhattan judge postponed Puff Daddy’s trial on weapons possession and bribery charges until later this year, or early 2001.)
EW.com asked ”Made”’s director, Favreau, to talk about Puff Daddy’s performance — and his prospects in Hollywood.
How did you get Puffy to be in your movie?
He approached me. I didn’t even think of going to him, but he had become aware of the script. I think being involved with Jennifer [Lopez], he got some inside tips. She had worked with Vince on ”The Cell,” so he knew that he could trust us and that we would be a lot of fun. He had met Vince on the set, so he knew he was going to be well looked after by us as filmmakers.
Was there a lot of ego involved? A big entourage?
Well, you know he’s high profile. There were a lot of paparazzi stalking us on the set. He’s got his people — nothing was to the expense of the company, however. It’s not like in his contract he asked for us to pay for security. He took care of everything himself. He got himself to the set. We gave him the same trailer we gave everyone else, and he couldn’t have been more of a team player.
What were the perks of working with someone so famous?
A lot of the movie is set against the New York nightlife. Because of Puffy, a few phone calls from him opened up the doors to all the nightspots here. We got to shoot in places like the China Club, while they were open, much like we did with ”Swingers.”
How do you rate him as an actor?
I think after the whole ”Any Given Sunday” thing, and how the press is so quick to attack you, it was good of him to take a part where he’s not trying to carry a movie. He’s just trying to show that he can act, which he can. He came incredibly prepared on the set. He knew all of his monologues beforehand, and he was very open to direction. I think he’s going to have a tremendous acting career as a result of his performance in this movie. He really stands out.
About the role he chose — isn’t it cutting a little too close to the bone?
If he took himself too seriously, he’d come off as Vanilla Ice in ”Cold as Ice.” You have to be smart about things. He’s in a cool independent film, not in something that’s about the pay. He knows we aren’t going to make the most money, but we are SO money. We took very good care of him.
Will we be hearing a Puff Daddy song on the ”Made” soundtrack?
He offered, but then it’s like with every Will Smith movie, there’s a Will Smith video, the end credits song. We don’t want it to become an Elvis movie. Hopefully, on the music side he’ll offer some insight to us as we try to figure out the soundtrack.
Won’t people expect his music?
I think with him, we have enough fun with the fact that he’s a crime boss in the movie, and that it plays with his image. He has a sense of humor about the way he’s presented, and that’s already sort of an insider thing. To have one of his songs play on the soundtrack might break the reality of what’s otherwise a serious movie.