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— by Larry Carroll

As if Terrence Howard isn't already having the type of year that most actors would gladly call a career ("Crash" in May, "Hustle & Flow" in July and "Four Brothers" in August), he still has one last 2005 performance heading to the screen in "Get Rich or Die Tryin'," the 50 Cent quasi-biopic. Taking a break from dodging questions about his myriad chances for some statuettes during next year's awards season, Howard recently offered a quick glimpse into 50, "Get Rich" and what makes him tick as an actor.

MTV Exclusive: 50 and the cast discuss Terrence Howard's character

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"For all those people who have been anxious to know what events led to creating 50 Cent, this [film] will answer a lot of those questions," Howard said, speaking of "Get Rich" in his signature soft, measured tones. "This is loosely based on his life; you see his stoic nature, his intense determination to become something better than the environment he was nurtured and raised in."

As for 50 — billed as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson — the rapper stars in the film as Marcus, an aspiring hip-hopper who finds himself headed down the path to destruction after his mother is murdered. When an attempt on his life leaves him questioning his greater purpose, he decides to channel his intensity into hustling rhymes, rather than drugs.

Howard, on-set for the filming of the scene in which Jackson recreated the real-life shooting that left him riddled with nine bullets, recalled the moment as emotional, and perhaps suggestive of a sense of closure.

"He was happy to be able to play that [because for him, as it is for me,] acting is therapy," Howard reflected. "I guess it's better that he was re-enacting it, instead of another actor playing him, because that would've meant that he didn't survive it."

Such dark-humored remembrances kept the "Get Rich" set focused, without becoming too somber.

"He said he didn't even feel most of it," Howard remembers of conversations he had with 50 Cent about the assault that almost ended the rapper's life. "He told me this great story: Right after he was shot, and his boys had thrown him in his car, and he was in the back seat right behind the driver. He's leaning up against the window, and there's this blood gushing from the side of his mouth. He had been shot in the mouth, and they stopped at a red light.
Watch exclusive interview and concert footage of 50 Cent in London as he readies his new movie and soundtrack, on MTV Overdrive.

"This woman who was in the car adjacent to them," he continued, "saw 50 with his tongue hanging through the side of his mouth and all this blood. She began to scream, and he said he remembered that it cracked him up. That [he looked so] jacked up."

It's no secret that the "Candy Shop" rapper is a tough guy, but one scene did stir up emotions far more intense than even the recreation of his own near-murder.

"He had to be able to see the tragedy of his life," Howard said, marveling at the rapper's screen debut. "And I think losing his mother was worse than being shot.

"He was surprised with his emotional abilities in this movie, his ability to tap into that," Howard said of the scene that has Marcus similarly losing his mother. "50 shows you everything."

After all this tragedy, at the character's lowest moment, Howard's unlikely guardian angel enters the picture.

"My character is a guy named Bama, from North Carolina, and he's been a rogue individual for most of his life," Howard said. "I meet 50 in prison, in a scene in which someone is trying to kill him. I come to his aid, and we end up in solitary cells next to each other and develop a friendship and camaraderie.

Photos from "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'"

"While he's in solitary, he's rapping in there," Howard recalled, admiring the power of the moment. "He's just rapping to himself, and my character sees some talent and ability in him, and the next 20 minutes I'm trying to convince him to let me be his manager. I'm in the next jail cell, so we ultimately become friends."

Based on a real-life character ("He's in jail now," Howard acknowledged. "I'm sure he'll see it; I hope he'll be pleased."), Bama helps Marcus tap into his emotional center, and acts as a grounding, centering influence, as the rapper learns to harness his considerable talent and charisma.

"All of them are new," Howard said of the freshly minted tracks that 50 channels through the Marcus character. "I'm not sure how many songs are performed in the movie. I think maybe three or four, at the most. We have scenes where we're in the studio, scenes when he's in jail and the concert at the end of the film."

Many of the songs, Howard marveled, were written on the set.

"[50 Cent] had a studio on wheels, basically, and in between shots or set-ups for shots he would go in there and record more music for the film. He ended up writing, like, 30 songs, and they chose maybe about 9, 10, 11, 12, and all of them — that I heard, anyway — were hits. They were incredible, and I was just blown away."

According to Howard, 50 fans and filmgoers alike can look forward to being similarly blown away when "Get Rich" opens next month. And as those who've seen any of Howard's first three films of 2005 can attest, the man knows a good script when he reads one.

Check out everything we've got on "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."

Check out everything we've got on Terrence Howard.

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