Cory Hardrict ('Destined')
'Ladies & Gentlemen: This Man Wants Independence!'
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Cory Hardrict began his career on television during the late 1990s, with appearances in weekly prime-time programs including Smart Guy, Felicity, Once and Again and ER. He made his film debut in 1999 in the romantic comedy 'Never Been Kissed,' starring Drew Barrymore, and followed with a role in the drama, 'Crazy/Beautiful' (2001).
With an extensive TV and filmography that now includes Dark Blue, Lincoln Heights and such films as 'Gran Torino,' 'The Day,' 'Warm Bodies,' 'Lovelace,' and 'Transcendence,' his latest is being filmed right here in Detroit, Michigan: 'Destined.'
'Destined,' directed by Qasim Basir, tells the tale of Rasheed Smith (Cory Hardrict) who in one world is a hardened criminal who has spent years building his drug empire. In another, he is an ambitious architect who has been working his way up the corporate ladder. Uniquely illustrated through parallel lives, 'Destined' explores how one mans future can be changed by a single moment.
Oh, and did I mention that I myself am also in a scene or two with the man himself? I didn't, well shame on me! And so, on his day off from shooting, and the day after we had filmed our bar scene the night before, I caught up with Hollywood's hottest new property, Cory Hardrict.
Taking it from the top, looking back at your movies, it seems like it all exploded for you in 2011 with ‘Battle: Los Angeles.’ So what actually changed in your life around then for that to happen? "Well, 'Battle: Los Angeles opened up a lot of doors for me, especially with different executives and studios looking at that film. There was a lot of characters in it, but at the same time I had a good arc, I had a good storyline, and I brought some depth and emotional history to that character. And it affected people, you know. And the film did well, so that doesn't hurt," he laughs. "It made about $250 million worldwide, so that's always a bonus."
"After that I just kept plugging away at it and getting good role after good role, but then I went this indie route where I could really be the focal point of the story. I just wanted to get down and gritty, which is why I didn't do as many big studio films. But then I got right back into the studio world, once I solidified my indie world. It was all this plan that I wanted to do, because it's easy to take a big studio film and be number four or number five, and they then only focus on the A/B storyline, because you can kinda get lost. And I love it all, and not that I was getting lost, but I definitely wanted to showcase my abilities in a smaller scale film where the story revolves around me. To be able to really show my acting abilities was important to me. So, that's where I'm at right now."
The last time we spoke was back in 2011 so some 3 years on I’m wondering how you have changed as a person? "I can say my family life has changed very much. I've had a son since we last have spoken, and he's three and a half now. I'm still married to my beautiful wife, Tia Mowry and yeah, that's grounded me a lot. It's allowed me to tap into a softer side of me that is breathing life into my work, and that I use now. I think my acting is way more grounded than it was before. My family has strengthened me in my career as it has given me added layers to any character development. So yeah, that has all helped me out tremendously."
Your resume reveals some diverse films, such as ‘Warm Bodies,’ ‘Lovelace,’ and even ‘Transcendence,’ but how do you pick your roles? "I love working with a great director and great cast, and a diverse group that's more global on a bigger scale, on a movie scale. But on the indie side, I want to be a part of something that centers around me. Something that is streamlined a lot more that it enables me to add character development. It's always so humanity-based. Indie's are a lower budget, a lower scale that has to focus more on the person, on their story, their character. And I can say that I'm really enjoying that and I'm getting a great fulfillment in that, because I'm not just in it for the money. I'm in it to do great work and touch people's lives. It's all art, and at some point, art doesn't care how it looks. I just want to make sure it affects people."
"That's how I feel right now at this point in my career, but it might change four or five years down the line," he laughs.
You are now filming ‘Destined’ here in our fair city of Detroit, Michigan, and as luck would have it, we were in a scene together last night! Please tell us more about your character and what we can expect to see from him "The movie centers around my story, where I play Sheed in one world, and Rasheed in the other. You caught the very beginning of Rasheed's story last night and this is my most challenging role to date. I have to play two guys, two different characters in the one world. From the mannerisms, to the posturing, to the language, I'm tying something that could really work or could really not," he laughs.
"It all relies on my performance. The Sheed world is that he ruled an empire, he ruled the streets, he was a man of few words, but all action. He commanded the room, or he commanded everything, as far as the people he surrounded himself with. But at the end of the day it all boils down to these two characters that are living parallel lives. It kinda shows how in real life that both corporate and street life are basically the same. So this movie shows you the in's and out's of both lives, side by side, and the rise and fall of both."
"So, without giving away the story too much, it's very compelling. It has an amazing script, one that Tommy Oliver, a wonderful producer, writer and friend, did rewrites on as well. We're having a blast and we're making something special. I'm really confident for it. I've put into it some of my best work ever and I can't wait for the world to see it."
Talking with the director, Qasim Basir ('MOOZ-lum') last night, I got a sense that he had his finger on the pulse of what this movie should be, and will turn out to be and represent "Yes, Q knows what he wants. He had a movie out before and then he penned this masterpiece we have now. He learned to hone his craft and allow himself to see this work freely. He has put everything he has into this movie. It's like a renewed and refreshed energy throughout the whole team here. And we have a lot to say in this film, and I think it will speak volumes to people once it comes out. I can't wait for the world to get a chance to view this."
As we know, ‘Destined’ is the story of a 13 year-old boy, Rasheed Smith, who comes to an early crossroads in his life when he has to decide whether to take the path of good or pursue a life of crime. Growing up in Chicago, Illinois, did you yourself ever have to make any similar choices, perhaps? "I grew up around it all, you know what I'm saying. Growing up in the inner city of Chicago, from an early age you throw on your survival mode. Every day you walk out of your house it could be your last. So it's the path you choose to walk to school, or the bus ride you take. There's a lot going on that's instilled in you naturally just from the environment in the poverty stricken areas."
"So I can't say that I did choose instead of going right I went left, but I did always avoid the chaos, the commotion. Or know where a select group of people would be so I could turn down another street and go the opposite way. It's about being smart and about making good choices. Everyone is given a choice and so it's up to you and you can go either way. But you have to deal with the consequences of your decision. Which is actually what Destined sums up. How to deal with just that. For every cause there will be an effect in life."
"So yeah, I chose to go the other way and I eventually worked my way out and away from Chicago. By then I had lost my mom, but before that I was getting out of high school and she saw me getting involved with acting and I wanted to keep a promise to her when she was in hospital that I would move to California to see this dream of acting out for myself. I owe her that promise, and so a lot of my drive comes from that also. I won't stop until I reach the mountain top, or whatever it may be. I'm always going. I can't ... I just can't stop. It's like I've got blinders on at this point. I know what I want. I know the end goal, but I don't know how I'm gonna get there right now. But I'll keep walking towards it, you know," he gently laughs.
Have you ever filmed here in Detroit before? "Yes, I have. Last time I was here I filmed with my idol, Clint Eastwood, in Gran Torino. I was only out here three weeks, but I was able to get a couple pivotal scenes in that film. Which was his biggest film box office-wise to date. I remember I was staying in Troy, Michigan in 2009. But yeah, Gran Torino brings back good memories."
Have you been out to the casino's whilst you have been here this time? "No, I've not been out much. I'm not a casino person. I don't gamble. I went to a Detroit Pistons game and managed to get on the floor, so that was exciting. Other than that, I've been working every day since I've been here!"
One of the real-life cop consultants on set has publicly said that he had never been to Detroit before, and was “a little blown away … by the scale of empty structures” and that he had “never seen abandonment on such a big scale” before. Filming in these same derelict houses, on the run down back streets of Detroit, what were your initial thoughts? "Well, I saw a lot of abandoned buildings, but also a lot of texture. It does have a soul to it. There is definitely something here that can't be denied and there's a beauty in that. I love the graffiti and the art that it spills out. To me that's beautiful. And I love the people. I'm from the Midwest and so there's something about Midwestern people that I love. There's just something so real about them. The way they walk, the way they talk. Just everything man."
The tag line for ‘Destined’ is, One Moment Can Change Your Destiny, so I’m wondering, in reflection, which one moment - whether it be personal or professional - changed your own destiny? "Getting on that plane and leaving Chicago with no bank account and only $70 in my pocket. I didn't turn back and yet I had nowhere to go. But I did have imagination, my mom's promise, and I had God by my side. And that's all I needed at that point."
OK, let’s take more about your upcoming movies, such as ‘American Sniper.’ Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, it is termed as being a “biographical action film,” so please tell me more "The film is about a wonderful American hero named Chris Kyle who had an autobiographical book brought out on him and it sold millions of copies. He was a brave humanitarian who fought for this country and he was the most deadliest sniper in United States history. He also loved people, did his job well, had a beautiful wife, a beautiful family. He was also able to sit down with Bradley Cooper before he passed, because they were going to do this movie long before he passed away. But because of that everything then went into a kind of standstill."
"But now it just felt right to honor him in this movie in the right way and pay homage to a man who was a hero. Not only for his family, but for the world. He died living a great cause. Bradley actually flew down to Texas and did research with his family, because he wanted to do this film the right way. He put on 40lb-45lb, he got the accent down, and he really embodies this guy who really gave his all. I'm very confident that American Sniper will be nominated for an Academy Award and hopefully it will win an Oscar, because it pretty much deserves it. But the main thing is not an award it's telling the story of this hero's life. About how he served his family well, and making from where he was in Texas proud. Making the world proud. It's definitely a bittersweet ending, but it's an energetic story that needs to be told."
What role do you play in 'American Sniper'? "I play D [Derek] one of Chris Kyle's best friends who went on four tours with him over in Afghanistan. D's just a no nonsense guy who's very supportive of Kyle. Kyle really understood D also. He was his right hand man. He was always ready to jump out of a plane with him. Kill at will," he laughs. "He's just that kind of guy and they're on a mission. D would say, You know what, we get to jump out of a plane, blow shit up and kill people and we get paid for it," he again laughs. "That was his saying man, so that's the character that I portray in the film. Hopefully the world will love it, because it comes from Clint Eastwood and it's easily some of his best work."
Bradley Cooper had to go through some form of Navy SEAL marksman training, did you also, perhaps? "Yeah, we all did it together. We did it at Warner Bros. in Burbank. We did some training and gun fire in preparation for a few weeks so we were prepared for what we got into when we got over to the lot. But I was pretty much aware of the training because the Sergeant who trained us was also the same guy who trained us on Battle: Los Angeles. Another one did Spectral and then he was again on American Sniper. So I was already used to his tactical procedures and how he operated."
It has a release date of Christmas Day, which is huge, so will you be taking your family and friends to your local movie theater to watch it that very same afternoon, perhaps? "Yeah, we're gonna go see it on Christmas. It will have to be after Santa Claus comes and he's given out all his gifts, and when we've eaten, but we'll all go to the theater and check it out. It'll be a great day. It comes out in limited release at Christmas and then wide release January 15th."
Have you turned down a role that you wish now you had actually taken? "I have no regrets, but I turned down a film called The Kill Hole back in 2012. It was a smaller film, but it was a great indie. The lead actor who got it was Chadwick Boseman, who went on to do great things now."
"So yeah, I wish I would had taken that film, but I was just coming off of Battle: L.A. and I was on Skype with the director all the time. There was definitely an offer on it for me and ... and I honestly don't know what happened. It didn't work out, I didn't do it, but I look back and I really enjoyed that script and so I still wish I'd have taken that one, yeah."
Another movie you have begun filming in Budapest, Hungry is ‘Spectral,’ which is the story of a special-ops team dispatched to fight supernatural beings that have taken over Europe! Also starring James Badge Dale, Max Martini, Bruce Greenwood and Emily Mortimer, tell us more! "We come in to save the day," he laughs. "It's a mixture of these three films: Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down with a grounded, serious-real Ghostbusters," he laughs. "I did say grounded though, as there is nothing comical about this movie, man! I haven't even seen it yet, but you know what Legendary Pictures brings to the table. They're all about the realism, everything being grounded in the tones of their films. So they'll have us covered in the ghost department," he gently laughs. "Jillian Share, who I love, was the executive producer on Spectral and she did a fantastic job."
Four months filming in Budapest means you must have had time so check out the beautiful city? "Not much, because this is another film where even if you're not in a scene you're suited up and ready anyway. I'm one of the main characters in this movie and I'm almost in every frame so I didn't have too much downtime."
Sadly, it doesn't even come out until 2016! "They've got to go through post and get all the Spectrals right. Nic Mathieu, the director he's new, but he's a perfectionist. I gave them everything I had. He's one to watch for and it's definitely going to be a very special film. It's one I'm really, really proud of."
Finally, is there anything else you would like to talk about? "I like talking about things that are current and that are real. There's some thing's that I just want to do ... and, I want to do Independence Day! That's where my mind is set up to do that. I'm already equipped for that: I've saved L.A. I've fought in tours. I've fought in Afghanistan. I've saved Europe. I'm grounded as a person and so for Independence Day, I hope they let me save the world with Mr. Roland Emmerich. We'll just have to wait and see how it goes!"
"There's also a few other things that I'm developing, that I'm just putting together right now with some writing partners. Some that will be my own vehicles, but yeah, I've got some things in the works. I also have a slew of indies coming out, from Brotherly Love, Car Dogs to Walk Of Fame. So 2015 is gonna be a big year, because hopefully all those films will bring more jobs. But we have to first see how the public takes it all in."
Well, like you say on Twitter, "If you don't take risk you'll always work for someone who did!" "Yeah, you've gotta take risks so, like I say, I like factual information. I like to always be honest. So I don't like to jump the gun on things that are not ready. So I never really speak on things ahead of time, but for Independence Day, well, I've had my eye on that one! And I've never really gone on record to say that, but it's the one that I really want."
Well, you've now said it aloud and it's gone officially on the record! "Well, maybe once you put it out there, Mr. Roland Emmerich will see it and say, Hey, I really want that guy too," he laughs.
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
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