The Dirt -NF_D_JGN-D6-2160.cr2
Credit: Jake Giles Netter/Netflix

Machine Gun Kelly was destined to play Tommy Lee.

Before a Mötley Crüe movie was ever even in development, the rapper and actor (real name Colson Baker) got a tattoo of the infamous drummer on his wrist when he was 18 years old. (And in true rock star fashion, he admits during a 5 p.m. interview to still being hungover from the film's premiere the night before.) So when The Dirt began taking shape at Netflix, MGK, 28, was all in — no matter what role or how long it took to become a reality.

"I didn't get approached; I auditioned for this sh— six times," he tells EW. "It was something that as soon as I heard that it was a possibility, I had reached out and I was willing to play a lot smaller roles just to be in the film, because I was such a fan. Then I auditioned for Nikki Sixx and they said, 'You have the Tommy Lee energy, you should come back and try it as him.' And then four auditions after that, they gave me the thumbs-up." He adds of being cast as Lee, "I'm already tall, lanky, and I have a f— ton of energy, so it just fit."

Luckily for MGK, both as an actor and a lifelong fan, Lee was around to help and share his opinion. "I'd go throw the script down on his desk and get his opinion and ask how he would say certain things, but really he wasn't critiquing me, more encouraging me," he says. "One of the coolest memories I actually have was watching Tommy walk up to set to where the fake Mötley house was. He walked in and was like, 'Holy sh—, dude, this is exactly what it looked like.' It's cool getting the confirmation from the living legends themselves that we had it right."

It wasn't all fun and games on the set, though. Despite some raucous party scenes — including the film's shocking opening — there's plenty of heavy material, including Lee punching his first wife after she calls his mother the C-word. "I kinda didn't want that in there," Lee recently told EW. "I'm not proud of it. But it's real and it happens to people. We didn't hide it when it was in the book. I regret that, and we all make mistakes, but I think it's important to know; maybe it'll help someone."

Of filming such tough scenes, MGK says, "Man, my life is f—ing tough, I don't have no problem going there. He kept it honest with me and told me everything, what the mood was like and how it was."

With the co-lead in The Dirt, a supporting turn in last year's smash Bird Box ("God bless the internet," he cracks), and an action-heavy role opposite Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in an upcoming untitled sci-fi movie, MGK has quickly emerged as a go-to actor for Netflix and its booming film business.

"I'm trippin' out," says the rapper, who previously starred on the short-lived Showtime series Roadies. "I feel like I earned my stripes to get to this point; I've put that work in. But to actually find a family over at Netflix that really embraces me and to give me my first lead like this, they've got a huge place in my heart."

Maybe a new tattoo is in order.

The Dirt premieres March 22 on Netflix.

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