There’s no mystery here for Alex Cross to solve: In casting Tyler Perry as the fictional crime-solver, Hollywood wants to discover if the indie powerhouse brings his devoted audience with him wherever he goes.
For “Alex Cross,” Perry takes on the role of author James Patterson’s beloved FBI investigator – the star of 18 novels and two prior films starring Morgan Freeman – and gives it the “Batman Begins” treatment, staking his own claim on the character in his first cinematic origin story. And while Industry insiders are eager to see if Perry, who as the primary creative force behind all of his prior films has become one of the highest-earning figures in show biz, can carry a more traditional Hollywood thriller at the box office, the actor himself reveals that for his part, he was simply eager to test himself with a new kind of challenge.
On switching from independent actor-writer-director-producer to Hollywood actor for hire:
“What I know about me is that when you know how to lead you also have to know how to follow. So in this thing, I'm working with James Patterson, who created this brilliant character, and also Rob Cohen, who's a brilliant director, and I had an opportunity to learn from both of them. For me it was all about surrender, and staying out of anything that I would do and just be the character. It allowed me to just go some places that I had never gone before.”
On taking noble Alex Cross down a path of righteous vengeance:
“I think every one of us in life has some sort of moment that has happened that we wish we could've done differently, or we wish that could've had a different outcome. What I did in preparing for those moments is I thought about those things. A lot of it was rooted in past relationships, childhood situations or business deals – things that I've gone through that I learned from. So there are many times when I had to tap into my own experiences to be able to get to a place where I could convincingly become that character in those moments, the intrigue, the revenge, the fight, the fight-back, because it's not me by nature, but I think that we all have a bit of it in us. I just had to find a way to tap into it.”
On his response to Alex Cross creator Patterson’s original intent to create a non-stereotypical African American protagonist:
“When I read the script and even saw James Patterson's description of Alex, he was describing me. I thought, 'Wait a minute – that's me!' So it all kind of came together for this moment to happen. I didn't think about it as a black lead or anything other than that, an African American man. I just thought about it as a great role and a great opportunity to do it.”
On shaping up through the Israeli self-defense method Krav Maga:
“Listen, it is the most intense, most amazing workout I've ever experienced in my life, and I kept it up after the movie because when it's all done, it's so relaxing, and being able to know how to defend yourself, that was really cool. I fell in love with it, and it also helps me keep my weight down. So it's really intense, and I can kick some ass, man.”
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On taking on a role that meant taking off his shirt:
“When Rob told me he wanted me to be raw in it, he also suggested Krav Maga and I liked it enough to know, 'Okay, this is what I want. I'm going to keep this up,' and so I had to trust him. It's always been easier for me to have a costume, have something to hide behind. Here I had nothing, and it was challenging, a bit frightening, but usually that's when I'll take things on, when I'm a bit afraid. If there's a bit of fear, I'll challenge myself to go as far as I can – so taking the shirt off was pretty scary, but it's okay.”
On his own intent to continue to take on new acting challenges in Hollywood:
“It depends, and I'll tell you why: because I really committed to being this character. I spent a lot of time with the Atlanta Police Department. I spent a lot of time with their homicide and cold case and being really involved in some things that I don't do in my day-to-day life. After it was all over I had to check in with myself to see how do I feel about it, because when you take on something that dark you really have to commit and go in to some dark places. I would consider it, based on how far I have to take my mind, myself, my body, soul and spirit into that type of world before I'd do it again. Because the only way to do it right is you have to go in and try and understand as much as you can of it, and that's not always comfortable.”
On the possibility of starring in and directing a future Alex Cross film:
“No. I know that my movies are simple stories. I put the camera over there and tell the story. It's about the audience, and you know, just wanting this type of story. These movies are…the way that they're shot, the things you have to know and the things that you have to understand about action and camera angles and all of those things, I'm not there yet. Maybe one day I'll be there, but I don't want to direct it. I enjoy just playing the character. Maybe I've entered a whole new realm in life here.”
On whether he looked for things to borrow from Morgan Freeman’s performances as Alex Cross:
“I did watch both films. Even when they first came out, I remember seeing them both, but let me tell you something: That's Morgan-frickin'-Freeman, okay? You don't try to do anything that Morgan Freeman does. He was the voice of God in a movie. That's Morgan Freeman. So I knew going in that I could not try to be Morgan Freeman playing Alex Cross. I had to be the best Tyler Perry I could playing Alex Cross.”
On chatting to Freeman about the role:
“I'm not going to call him up and say, 'What do you think?' I did not speak to him about it. But now that it's all over, after he sees it, maybe I will.”
On the possibility of passing the baton of Madea over to another actor, as he picked up the baton of Alex Cross:
“That old broad is going to die a quick death when I'm done with that! I just want you to know that she's going to be buried with that dress, so I don't think that'll ever happen.”