Frank Rich: Every moment has to pay off.

Chris Rock: In this sense, comedy’s really fair. It’s not like music, where you can hire Timbaland and he gives you a beat and a song, and even though you can’t sing it’s a hit. Comedy, especially stand-up comedy, it’s like: Who’s funny?

It’s a ruthless marketplace.

It’s the only thing that smacks Hollywood out of its inherent racism, sexism, anti-­Semitism. It makes people hire people that they would never hire otherwise. Do they really want to do a show with Roseanne Barr? No, they want a thin blonde girl.

But she’s funny.

She’s just funnier than everybody. I’m not even sure they wanted to do a Seinfeld show, but he’s just funnier than everybody.

He’s not a matinee idol. He’s Jewish, nerdy. And recently he said publicly he was somewhere on the autism spectrum as a comedian.

He bores easily. I bore easily. Not because I’m on some spectrum, but because I hear so many conversations again and again. So many people come up to you, and not enough people try to take into account what you’ve heard already.

Let’s put it this way. Take Anchorman. Now switch the directors of Anchorman and Gone Girl and give them their movies to do. Adam McKay’s going to get closer to Gone Girl than Fincher is going to get to Anchorman.

Talk to me a little about the trajectory of Top Five. I gather there was wild enthusiasm at the premiere in Toronto and a bidding war — and now this very personal, independent movie is on a fast track. Has this been exciting?

There’s a humongous screening in Toronto. All the buyers are there. All the critics are there. I believe the bids were coming in before the movie was over.

That’s the ADD of the industry writ large.

They had a little after-party at the Soho House in Toronto. And you know, you’re just shaking hands. It’s the Lionsgate people, and it’s the Fox 2000 people and Paramount and Screen Gems. “I hope we’re doing it with you. I hope we’re doing it with you.” It’s like running for office.

They’re jockeying for distribution rights.

Yeah. Everybody’s on the phone all night, essentially. It’s like election returns. It’s at 6. It’s at 10. You know what I mean? A lot of money for a film at a festival is like $3 million, so for a movie to sell for $12.5 million is unheard of.

How are they opening the movie? In major cities first?

You know what? They’re getting greedy, which is scaring me a little bit. It was supposed to be New York and L.A. the 5th, and then the rest of the country on the 12th. Now they’re just going for the whole country on the 12th. It feels like they’re going to go for 2,000 screens. Every screening’s gone amazingly well, but something inside me keeps saying, This is a little movie.

So if the movie opens, and it’s disappointing, how do you think you’ll react? I mean you care, obviously, but …

I mean, you care, but suppose, what, the movie makes a billion dollars? It’s not going to affect my day with my kids. If it makes two cents, it’s not going to affect my day with my kids. Fine, the movie comes out Friday, Saturday I will take Zahra to gymnastics. I hope Annie’s out. We’ll go see Annie.

I’m always scared, though. I remember Sacha Cohen a week or two before Borat came out. I remember him being scared. He was like, “I don’t know if the tracking was right,” or whatever. It was supposed to open in about 2,000 screens, and they opened it in 800. It actually played better in 800, because it played to a packed house. I like the concept of every house packed. But who knows? The marketing costs are more than the movie. Some of that is them charging themselves. Paramount’s paying Viacom. Viacom owns MTV, BET, Comedy Central. So if you’re paying for a commercial on Comedy Central — it could be $20 million, it could be $5 million, it could be $50 million. Who the hell knows what the hell they’re really spending?

It’s bookkeeping. What’s your relationship with the Hollywood power structure? How do you deal with the failures you’ve had there?

I’m still on the table, which is good. No one’s yanked me off. You can be behind and on the table. I never take any of it personally. It’s all money, especially when you’re talking about playing a lead of anything. I guess if you’re a supporting character, friendships may come into play here and there — strings can be pulled in the lower echelons. But as far as being a leading man, there’s a printout, and there’s how much the movie made here, here, and here. How do you do in Budapest? How do you do in Calgary? Germany? And they make the decision.

Does all that make you want to release on your own?

I was talking to Steve McQueen a couple weeks ago about this. People come up to us and are like, “Get the funding yourself, and put it out yourself.” Dude, I can’t run a candy store.

Do you like directing?

I do. I like the control. I like creating a world. It’s your world. If you want gravity in it, there’s gravity. If there’s not, things will float. And I like to create a tone. If there’s anything I’m proud of with this movie, it’s that we got a really good comedic tone that can be funny and real at the same time.

Read the entire conversation between Chris Rock and Frank Rich on Vulture.


  1. With Trayvon, everybody said oh, with Michael, ev’bady said daimn! With garner, its gaddaimn. Repect Chris Rock for speaking out at least.

  2. I love Chris Rock. An intelligent dude any how you look at him. I will give him the support for this film Top Five.


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