September 09, 2005
Judd Nelson ruled the '80s. He was the only actor who could play a preppie and a tough guy at the same time. The leader of the Brat Pack sat down with TheManRoom to talk about the new New Jack City: Special Edition DVD, what it was like working with Ice-T and what John Bender would have in his ManRoom. TMR Entertainment Inc.
TheManRoom: You first went to prep school and then onto Haverford College to major in philosophy. Where did the acting come from?
Judd Nelson: I did a play in college. A friend of mine was going to audition and asked me if I wanted to join him. I said no, but he said thats where all the girls are so I said, Uh, ok. And I ended up doing the play and ended up catching the fever. I pretty much thought I was going to stay doing theater the whole time and not film, as film is far more lucrative.
TMR: New Jack City has a 2-disc special edition out today. Did you have any part of the special features included on it?
JN: I watched one of the documentarys on it, I think the Road to New Jack City one. It was quite good and I have a couple of comments on it. They talk to us post the whole experience and it was great. I was impressed with the documentary. You know a lot of the ones they just kind of slip together and throw something extra on it and call it a special feature but this was quite a good short documentary. And I also saw another one which was New Jack City: Hip-Hop Classic, which was in fact me getting more information about that kind of music scene then. The only thing I remembered about it then was that it was very unique in the sense that it was sold for its music before its film content. There was a soundtrack release before the movie was released, I think 3 months before. And there were 3 number one hits on and that was very helpful for the advertising, I can imagine.
TMR: I went and saw New Jack City opening weekend and I didnt know at the time you were in the film.
JN: Mario and I went to acting school together. We had dinner one night and he said he was going to direct this movie and he wanted me in it. I said sure, he said I dont know what kind of role you are going to have and I said I dont care. He said it was primarily what the studio was calling A black film. And I said, Wouldnt that be radio? A black film - that would be something that has no picture. I told him I didnt care. He said that Ice-T was going to be in it, I was probably going to be his sidekick, and I said thats great, I like his music. He told me Ice didnt have that much experience and I would need to kind of show him. And I go, show him? I mean Ill show up on time and know my lines and hit my marks and he says, Thats what I want you to show him. It was really a blast. I really enjoyed making it and Wesley was outstanding. It was really fun.
TMR: Aside from Wesley Snipes you were probably the biggest name in the movie. Ice-T was known as a rapper and not a movie star and at that time, Chris Rock was just an up-and-comer and little known to wide audiences.
JN: Rock did such a good job as well, and I think it was a very shrewd move to use someone with 100% legitimate street credentials, Ice-T, to play the cop. Its the only way to get the message across, otherwise everyone who sees the movie is going to say, I want to be cool like Nino Brown. And the back-story was great, the fact that Ice-Ts mother was murdered for no reason at all, and it was just a great story. Mario did a great job. He was really fun to work for, very creative, and a lot of times if youre going to have a whole day to shoot a scene, and then find out you only have a half a day to shoot a scene, he would solve all those problems. He was a blast.
They gave me the DVD and I watched those documentaries. And there is also one where Mario meets some guy, who is like the curator of the Harlem museum, and he goes with his kids. And they have a walking tour of Harlem, you know how it began, and I was impressed.
TMR: In the film you play Nick Peretti and get partnered up with Ice-T. What type of research did you do for the role of a hardnosed cop?
JN: Well I liked the notion of a cop who even the cops dont like. I had an acquaintance that worked for the NY police dept. and he put me in touch with someone that worked undercover. Someone that kind of, he never really had the appearance of a cop, and never really behaved like a cop but knew the difference between right and wrong and that was the only thing. I got to spend some time with him and you always think the badge is like this Captain America Shield, you know to protect you but what I realized doing the research for it, the badge made you a target, which is kind of a scary thought. Mario wanted me to put together my own wardrobe. I kind of practiced. I was living in NYC at the time and the motorcycle I ride in the movie is my motorcycle. So I just kind of experimented with elements of clothing and would just drive uptown into Harlem, show the motorcycle, and just cruise around and walk the streets. And what I noticed was people were just avoiding me. It was a fascinating notion like they knew, that someone who looks like me in that neighborhood was either carrying a gun because he was a bad guy, or carrying a gun because he was a good guy. It was like they gave me a wide berth.
TMR: I didnt think Peretti looked like a New York Detective. I can understand what you mean by choosing your own clothing.
JN: Absolutely, it was the kind of thing in the story where the police department wants to get rid of him and they want to get rid of Ice-Ts character. Its a wonderful movie connection to stick these two guys together. And it worked out great. I really enjoyed working with him and I thought the relationship between the two characters was very unique.
TMR: It was unique that the two of you started out not liking each other and it seemed like the underlying tones made your character a bit of a racist, up until you said the line, Its not a black thing. Its not a white thing. Its a death thing. Death doesnt give a shit about color. I felt that was one of the best lines in the movie!
JN: Thanks man, that was mine! I think a lot of times, and thats what was great about Mario as well, he was patient in a sense that he was trusting enough for us to come up with things like Peretti and Ice-Ts character. It is almost like that shell makes them not get along, you know what I mean, it had this exterior effect but we had so much more in common. Mario was very trusting that we were able to find that connection. Ice is such a good guy. I was really impressed about how much of a gentleman he was and how incredibly smart he is. He was very generous with fans; a lot of times we were shooting and people would recognize him, just very kind. I was real impressed with him and he did such a great job in the movie because again, taking that legitimate street cred and playing a cop.
TMR: You would think that a lot of your street friends would think, Oh you sold out.
JN: Yeah but it would be the opposite like that, it would be, Yeah Ill play a cop but I want to play a cop like Ice-T!
TMR: Even in all the TV shows and movies he has done he has always had some type of connection with a cop in some way, with Ricochet and then his role as a detective on Law & Order, and so on.
JN: Yeah didnt he do one where he was being hunted?
TMR: Yeah it was called Surviving the Game.
JN: Yeah thats it. I was thinking about this, they take a homeless guy off the street.
TMR: Yeah I think Rutger Hauer was in it too.
JN: Oh I love Rutger Hauer. He is outstanding! I mean how cool was he in Blade Runner.
TMR: Well he was the best part about Blade Runner. JN: Thats what that story was about, primarily was man meeting his maker. You know in the book the Harrison Ford character is also a Replicant?
TMR: Yeah, When Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. That was the book.
JN: Youre good! Wow, you know your shit!
TMR: Well I read that book along time ago. I am a big movie fan and always have been.
(At this portion of the interview Judd and I go on and on about movies, what we have seen, what we havent, and the next thing I know its two guys shooting the shit on the phone and having a conversation that has nothing to do with New Jack City or any of Judds other films&ldots;)
TMR: You name was mentioned by Jason Mewes in Dogma. When they went looking for the town of Shermer, was that a precursor to you making your appearance in Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back as the Sheriff?
JN: Yeah when they say the line that all the guys in Shermer suck except for me. We just got in touch with him as soon as possible. Someone mentioned it to me and I love all his films. I contacted him and said, I want to be in one of your films. Ill do anything, it doesnt matter what it is. Thats how I got involved with that. I mean Kevin (Smith) is such a smart and interesting guy. It just cracks me up that he is Silent Bob. How you seen his speaking tour DVD? He does it where he is speaking at colleges; it is incredible you got to get it. Its so funny because its from a few different ones and a few colleges and he is up on stage and he has Jason Mewes to next to him and its funny cause Kevin talks the whole time and Jason doesnt say two words. Its the complete opposite of the films.
TMR: Jason just stands there and stares at Kevin.
JN: Jason has really pulled himself together, he really has. He is clean and sober, he chopped his hair off, and he is just great on those films as well. There is a lot of ways to skin a cat.
TMR: What films are you working on right now?
JN: I just finished a TV movie for the USA Network; its a Christmas movie called The Three Wise Guys. You know like the Three Wise Men? Were like chasing this pregnant woman named Mary that gives birth in a manger but we still dont get it. Our mob boss is Tom Arnold, his wife played by Katie Segal, and me and Nick Turturro and Eddie McClintock are the three wise guys. We just finished that a couple of weeks ago. And before that I did one called Black Hole. Its another TV movie for the Sci-Fi Network with Kristie Swanson in which we inadvertently create a black hole in St. Louis, which is not a good idea because it has a rather high gravity quotient. So Ive done those two and I am not quite sure whats next.
TMR: You kind of disappeared for a while; you did some TV and some movies that slipped under the radar, but your still Judd Nelson!
JN: Hey thank you, you know you try. I guess its kind of like the flow of most things. You know someones perception of you could be one thing, in this business it seems that perception is reality. Its an odd kind of job where youre confused with the product. Its pretty rare that the baker gets confused with the cake. Its very easy to confuse Sean Connery with James Bond. There are good things about that and not good things, but thanks for your support, man!
TMR: Like you were saying, its easy to get the character confused with the actor. Do Brat Pack fans still hound you?
JN: You know its like my mother always said, If you cant stand the heat get out of the kitchen. It is a profession of illusions. You cant be upset about those kinds of things. I am definitely from the school of thought that says, There is such a thing as bad press. Its kind of hard to stop a stone from rolling downhill. You have to try and keep out of the way of it and try and survive it. We got lumped together as a generation of actors as if we were hanging out together. I was living in New York at the time and I seldom travel three thousand miles to have a beer with someone. Sofia Loren I would travel three thousand miles to have a beer with.
TMR: I think anybody would for that. A ManRoom is a room in the house a guy has to watch movies, drink beer, play cards, etc. Do you have a ManRoom and if so, what are some of the cool things in it?
JN: Well I live alone with my dog so I dont really have a ManRoom, I have a ManHouse! I can do whatever I want in it without anyone telling me not to do it. I mean my dog maybe not telling me to do it, but I dont understand dogs so I dont know.
TMR: What kind of a ManRoom would John Bender have?
JN: There wouldnt be an unscarred wall. There wouldnt be a lampshade. And there wouldnt be small, cute ashtrays.
Special thanks go to Judd Nelson for sitting in TheManRoom and Adam Wheat for conducting the interview.
thanks CL :-)