LOS ANGELES — Magic Johnson, Orlando Jones and John Witherspoon were just a few of the celebrities who turned out for the "Friday After Next" premiere Wednesday. (Click to see photos from the red carpet.)
And "Friday" star, co-producer and co-writer Ice Cube, dressed down in a very un-Hollywood baseball cap and flannel shirt, couldn't have been happier to see them.
"It's good that people are interested in the movie," Cube said, smiling widely during the limo ride from his home to the event. "People love 'Friday' movies, and we came through with this one. This one is Christmas in the 'hood, so it's a different look at what Christmas can be like. ... I wanted to give 'Friday' a new paint job in a way. And I think California Christmas is funny."
"We knew we had something," Cube said of 1995's original "Friday." "You know you've got a fun movie when people can walk out of the theater, quote from it and the movie starts to become part of the fabric of the neighborhood. It's a beautiful thing when you've got people out there quoting things that you wrote.
"I always said I just thought the 'cool people' would like it. [But] everybody loved it. [So] we did a second one. We had obstacles because we didn't have all the players in place, but we got new people. And now we're on to a third one, which I think is the best one. We're at the top of our game. It's funnier. It's just a better movie."
Mentally preparing himself for his latest premiere put Cube in a reflective mood. After all, it wasn't long ago that he was stepping onto the red carpet to promote "Barbershop," a low-key ensemble comedy that drew fire from the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton for its jokes about Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks (see " 'Barbershop' Attacked By Reverend Jesse Jackson").
"I don't believe that they had even seen the movie before they made the comments," Cube said, "so it was kind of to me a non-issue, because we're talking about fictional characters in a fictional movie. If anybody is true with themselves and if anybody knows a barbershop, they know nobody's exempt. You have people sitting in a chair talking about their own auntie or their own cousins and sisters. So of course they're going to talk about public figures. And everybody's going to have comments and debates and discussions and a couple insults. But that don't mean that we don't love these people."
In spite of the controversy, "Barbershop" was a surprise box-office smash. There's even talk of a sequel and a spinoff TV series. "It's all about making sure that it's the right movie to make," Cube said. "I don't want do [a sequel] if people just see dollar signs, because that's not how the first one was conceived."
It is with a similar attitude that Cube spoke of continuing the "Friday" franchise.
"It's all about the fans, man, it's what they want," Cube said. "So after this one comes out, we'll let the people speak for themselves. If they want another one and I can get the players back, the veterans of the 'Friday' movies, and can think of a story ... we can do it."
From "Barbershop" to the three "Friday" flicks and all the way back to 1991's "Boyz N the Hood," Ice Cube has blazed a Hollywood trail that everyone from DMX to Ja Rule has followed. Before Cube proved that rappers could establish credibility as dramatic actors, only films like "Krush Groove" and "Disorderlies" were open to hip-hop artists.
"I think a lot of us [rappers] are talented in all kinds of areas," Cube said. "Just because we start off as rappers doesn't mean we're going to end up as rappers. You're starting to see talent come out of all kinds of people. All kinds of MCs starting to cross over to the movie game. It's a wonderful thing."
"Friday After Next" opens the Friday after this one.
For more Hollywood happenings, check out MTV's Movie House.
— Ryan J. Downey, with additional reporting by Nick Zano