Street talked to Ne-Yo about his role in the upcoming thriller Battle: Los Angeles.
Street: What appealed to you most about Battle: Los Angeles?
Ne-Yo: Just reading over the script and looking at the things that happen in this movie. It’s really looking like they paid attention. It’s about living life to the fullest. I don’t think that aliens are gonna come down and try to wipe us down any time soon, but one lesson to be learned is that life is very short and that anything can happen, so don’t put anything off tomorrow that you can do today. That’s what I’m saying.
Street: One of the biggest challenges for actors in this kind of film is working with CGI. How did director Jonathan Liebesman work with you to achieve a natural performance with all the computer generated stuff?
Ne-Yo: For one, Jonathan Liebesman is a frickin’ slave driver. He’s very, very, very much a perfectionist. Not to say I don’t love the guy to death; he’s an incredible guy, but he was that kind of guy who was gonna push and push and push until you wanted to punch him in the face. But the end result is the best performance that you could possibly get.
It was a little difficult with the whole CGI thing. I’m still very much a novice actor, so for me to act like I’m terrified of something that’s not even there, it was a little difficult for me. But with Jonathan’s help and with the other seasoned actors — Michelle Rodriguez, the other people that were there — I pulled it off.
Street: Who are some of your acting idols?
Ne-Yo: I like versatility in an actor. There’s a couple of different reasons to pay attention to certain actors. Take Denzel Washington, for example. Denzel Washington is the kind of guy where, you cast Denzel Washington in your movie, you know exactly what you’re casting. He’s the guy who’s gonna be himself in every scene in every film and that’s what you love about him, which is why you cast him. But then take Jared Leto, or somebody like that, who is a natural character actor, so in every film that he plays he’s somebody completely different. His look will change or his voice will change or whatever – I like actors that can do that. I’ve always wanted to be that guy who could turn into a whole other person if I felt like it.
I love Tom Hanks; I love the fact that he can do dramas, he can do comedy. I’ve never seen him in an action role, but I don’t doubt that he could do that too if he just put his mind to it. It’s diversity. Bruce Willis is another one.
Street: If you could remake any movie and re–cast yourself in the lead role, which one would it be?
Ne-Yo: I’d remake the 80s cult classic The Last Dragon and I would cast myself as Leroy Green. I’ve been a martial arts fan for a very, very long time. I’ve studied martial arts for the last five or six years and I just think that would be a fun role to play. I don’t even know what I would bring to the role. I just feel like that would be a lot of fun to make it over, to take a cult classic and try to modernize a little bit. A little bit, y’know; you don’t wanna take it too far out of the realm that it was in because people have tried that and failed.
Street: Did you work on the soundtrack of this movie?
Ne-Yo: I did not; I didn’t do anything with the soundtrack of this film. Mainly because I told myself that if I was gonna do this, I was gonna do it as an actor, not as an R&B cat trying to be an actor.
Street: What was it like working with Aaron Eckhart?
Ne-Yo: Aaron Eckhart is a very devoted actor that is in the role until the credits roll. He’s very much a method actor and I’d never experienced working with a method actor before. And in this movie he plays a hard–ass, so y’know, I was the first to be in the conclusion that on set, in the scene, he’s playing a character. And then you go to lunch, and you try to say something to him and he throws the character again and you’re like “Woah! What the hell did you do?” One of those kind of things. But then they explained to me — he’s not being an asshole, he’s being a method actor so he’s still in character. And I’m like ‘Oh, ok, I wish somebody would’ve told me that — I thought he was pulling some kind of face.’ I don’t know if I could do the whole method acting thing. But hat’s off to him, because he’s incredible in the film and he definitely played the role to the nines.
Street: There’s been a lot of end of the world movies, so what does this film have that others don’t?
Ne-Yo: This movie has heart. The difference with this movie is that they paid a lot of attention to character development. A lot of the end of the world films, you don’t really get to know the characters well enough to give a damn about the fact that the world is ending. Like, you don’t care. You just wanna see something explode. You just wanna see the Statue of Liberty fall over or something crazy, right?
With this film, you actually get into the character, you get into their lives. It’s to the point where you give a damn about the characters and I think that that’s the one thing that a lot of these cataclysmic destruction movies lack: they get so caught up in all of the destruction that they forget about setting up the characters. They forget about the human element of the people involved.
It’s like you want to be able to relate to these people, you want to be able to relate to them to the point where you’re in their shoes. Where you’re thinking ‘Damn, what would I do if that was me? What would I do if that was the last time I got to speak to a girl and we had an argument and now the world is about to blow up?’ You wanna feel that, or at least I do when I go to a movie like that and there’s people in it, with a situation like this. I want to feel what the people on the screen are feeling. And I feel that’s what this movie does.