Eminem’s Road To Relapse, Part 3: ’8 Mile’

Semi-autobiographical film put MC on top of music and movie worlds.

As the May 19 release of [url id="http://www.mtv.com/music/artist/eminem/artist.jhtml"]Eminem[/url]‘s long-awaited Relapse
album approaches, MTV News is taking a deep dive into our extensive Eminem archives and examining each phase of the MC’s storied career. Part one looked at his rise; part two at his initial stardom, and here in part three, we take a look at his semi-autobiographical feature-film debut, “8 Mile.”

Grammy Awards, platinum plaques, controversies created and controversies averted: By 2002, Emimem was scorching hot, the untouchable blond don. Early in the year he released his third album, the deeply personal The Eminem Show, to both critical acclaim and commercial success, debuting at #1 on the Billboard charts. 

Songs like “Cleanin’ Out My Closet,” “Hailie’s Song” and “Sing for the Moment” showcased a more lyrically mature Em, as the rapper delved even deeper into his life for his music; he also manned the boards for most of the production on the LP, giving him more control over his art. 

The intimate portraits in the songs served as a perfect segue to his next project, the semi-autobiographical film, “8 Mile.” The movie marked Eminem’s first — and thus far his only — major foray into film. Producer Brian Grazer and director Curtis Hanson partnered with the rapper to deliver a “Purple Rain”-like testament to Em’s upbringing in Detroit.

“There are some things that were taken out of my real-life story, some things that I didn’t even discuss on record,” Em told MTV News about the film prior to the premiere. “I’ve had a lot of stuff happen in my life that not everybody knows about. I can’t tell everything in my music. There are some instances taken out of my life and there are some that are completely fictional and just made up. Because you know, I’m not playing me in the movie, but I’m playing somebody that’s like me.”

In the movie, Eminem plays battle rapper Jimmy “B-Rabbit” Smith Jr. The character, like Em, grew up in the 8 Mile neighborhood of Detroit, known as a racially dividing locale where white residents and black residents live on separate sides of the industrial city. Filming on location proved to be as difficult for the crew as it was for Eminem growing up there. 

Four crew members were injured on the set during a scene in which a house burned down. That particular scene also sparked outrage in Detroit within the community where instances of arson were a sign of a past the city was looking to move away from. A noted documentary on the strip, “Borderline: The Story of 8 Mile Road,” described the area as a “notorious boundary.”

Despite the setbacks, “8 Mile” proved to be a runaway success. Queen Latifah, Kid Rock and even Christina Aguilera, among other celebs, showed up for the film’s Hollywood premiere.

“I hear great things [about Eminem's acting ability], I really do,” Aguilera said on red carpet. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t. I heard that the movie’s great.”

The movie grossed an eye-popping $54.4 million during its opening weekend to land atop the box office. The soundtrack, powered by the anthemic “Lose Yourself,” also landed at #1 on the Billboard albums chart. All the while, The Eminem Show, released months earlier, was still in the the top 10.

As if that weren’t enough, in between the release of The Eminem Show and “8 Mile,” Eminem managed to spark a feud with Jermaine Dupri, hit the road for the Anger Management Tour with Ludacris and Papa Roach, and sign a brash mixtape rapper out of New York by the name of 50 Cent to a record deal.
 
His “8 Mile” co-star, Taryn Manning, said the rapper multi-tasked during the movie production, oftentimes working on the soundtrack while working on the film. 

“He’s the lead. He’s in every single scene,” Manning said then. “He just knows he has the power to create something that could have a lot of longevity. He can feel it inside. He’s focused. He’s intense, but he’s also really goofy.

“[When] I was there, [during] any downtime, he was writing,” she continued. “You could just see him formulating stuff in his head. I thought it was the coolest thing.”

From the outside it may have looked cool. But after such a taxing year, working on multiple albums and a movie, along with handling promotional duties for each project, Eminem was spent. He announced he was taking time off in 2003; he famously skipped the Academy Awards in March despite “Lose Yourself” being nominated for (and winning) an Oscar.

It was time for change. Not just for Eminem, but for hip-hop, too, he felt. That came in the form of his new artist 50 Cent, who became the first rapper to push a million copies of an album in one week since … Slim Shady.