New Movie Has 50 Cent, Jessica Biel Making 'Brave' Career Choices

Superstar rapper, sexy starlet play Iraq war vets in Friday's 'Home of the Brave.'

BEVERLY HILLS, California — At first glance, a street-wise rapper from Queens, New York, and a Minnesota-born cover girl from a wholesome WB drama wouldn't seem to have much in common. But Jessica Biel and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson consider themselves comrades in a very real war of their own — against the categories and restrictions people are constantly trying to force upon them.

"Yeah, this was a conscious decision, because it was a creative need," the 24-year-old Biel recently said of her eyebrow-raising role as a disfigured Iraq war vet and single mom in Friday's "Home of the Brave." "I was just craving to do something dark and deep and complicated and real."

After a year that also saw Biel step up for the indie drug flick "London" and the period drama "The Illusionist," the actress will ring in 2007 with some very different expectations than when she came into 2006 with flicks like "Blade 3" and "Summer Catch" on her résumé. The same can also be said for 50 Cent, the bulletproof rapper who wanted to do more than another version of himself like in last year's "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."

"I actually received a bunch of screenplays for follow-ups to 'Get Rich,' and I read this screenplay and it just stood out to me," said 50, who plays an Iraq veteran. "The film was actually about three characters returning from the war. I sat with [writer/director/producer] Irwin [Winkler] and communicated with him till he decided to give me a shot at it."

Winkler decided to expand a whole character and rewrite his own script — the first about Iraq veterans dealing with their return to America — but it didn't come easy.

"I didn't really want him for the film," the veteran filmmaker ("Raging Bull," the "Rocky" movies) admitted. "I said to the agent when the agent called [that] I didn't want some rapper that was going to be partying all night and showing up on the set half-boozed-out with an entourage around them. I don't want that. I'm going to be making a film that is very realistic, and I've got no time for that."

Eventually, 50 Cent and his team convinced the 73-year-old Winkler that he could hold his own alongside respected actors like Samuel L. Jackson and Christina Ricci. "His agent said, 'Why don't you meet him and see what you think?' " Winkler remembered. "So I met him and was taken with his personality, and he was very serious about acting. What happened then was when he showed up in Morocco, he was the first one on the set, and he was there all the time and we never had a moment of any kind of problem — and his acting was really very good."

50 was so convincing, in fact, that Winkler thought his new leading man could write a lot more than just rhymes. "Curtis wrote a scene for himself, and we started building up the character — making it more important — and we ended up with a fourth character," Winkler continued, remembering one scene in particular that had the rapper exploding in rage over his bad back and eroding personal life. "It's a scene where [actor] Brian Presley is standing with Sam Jackson outside, and it starts with Curtis being very upset that he can't get his VA papers processed. He needed to be very aggravated, and he wrote that himself. I just said to him, 'This is the idea,' and he came out and said, 'OK, I got it.' "

"I had to do research," 50 Cent said proudly. "It was a small portion at first, because my character was actually already in the film, but it was a lot smaller role. Irwin kept expanding the character, based on my performance. He wanted to see more from me in the film, so he just kept on adding scenes."

As a more seasoned actress, Biel's challenge wasn't convincing Winkler to put her in the movie, but convincing audiences to get past her celebrated beauty while taking her seriously as a depressed veteran struggling with a prosthetic arm. "That process was hard and emotional every day," she said of strapping on the fake limb. "It was weird. I felt insecure and unfeminine, and just by putting it on you feel like people are looking and they want to touch it, and you don't want them to touch it. Even though it's not real, you start to feel these emotions, and they come up naturally."

Fans who swarmed the movie's Moroccan set each day haven't forgotten about 50's rap career just yet. "The kids in Morocco just love 50 Cent music," Presley laughed when asked about his co-star. "As we were filming in the streets, and we were in these Hummers and with these machine guns, a hundred kids were chasing behind us chanting 'Candyshop' and all his songs. It was priceless."

"Yeah, I get that pretty much everywhere I go," 50 grinned. "Word of mouth is that 50 Cent is over there, and they come out."

"Amazing," shrugged Winkler, remembering their desert city location. "We're shooting in this place called Ouarzate that doesn't have a movie theater, doesn't have a disco, has nothing really. There are a couple of restaurants where they serve Moroccan food, and just hotels. And the kids in the street all knew who he was and all knew his lyrics and wanted to take pictures with him. I was just stunned."

Now, both actors are ready to show their fanbase a very different side of themselves.

"I just don't want to do the same thing over and over again but switch it up a little bit," Biel said. "These are the types of movies I've always been interested in: character pieces, character-driven stuff, relationship-driven things. ... I was dying to do something like this."

Check out everything we've got on "Home of the Brave."

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