Two years ago, THINK LIKE A MAN became a surprise hit, based partly on the advice book of the same name by Steve Harvey about men for women, because it did offer something resembling considered advice about the differences between the sexes. But the film also featured a great deal of conversation among the men, among the women about life, love, emotional pain, it was all in there, and most of it felt real and perhaps even thought provoking.
The film features a stellar ensemble cast, all of which return for the sequel THINK LIKE A MAN TOO, which shifts the focus from pure conversation and learning to a Las Vegas adventure for both sets of friends, as two in their midst in on the verge of getting married, and both the men and the women want pre-wedding bashes for their respective bride/groom. Attempting to run the bachelor part is the only single person in the group, Cedric, played by Kevin Hart. Much like Hart’s January release RIDE ALONG (also a surprise hit), THINK LIKE A MAN TOO was directed by Tim Story (BARBERSHOP, FANTASTIC FOUR, and the first THINK LIKE A MAN), who seems to be the favorite among those who have worked with him in the past.
I had a chance to sit down in Chicago with Hart, Hall (the SCARY MOVIE films, ABOUT LAST NIGHT) and Jenkins (BAGGAGE CLAIM, E! News) recently to discuss THINK LIKE A MAN TOO, the shift in tone, and preparing for scenes that require choreography (or at least a good workout the night before), Please enjoy my talk with Kevin Hart, Regina Hall and Terrence Jenkins…
Capone: So now you’ve all done sort of the sequel thing—some of you have done it many times. What is the key to getting it right the second time and recapturing, if not the same magic, then another kind of magic in a sequel.
Terrence Jenkins: That’s a great question.
Regina Hall: I think having a big part of the magic is your cast, so I think a lot of times when you have your original cast come back, when you get the whole cast, it’s great. But when you have your mainstay cast, obviously, and then a good script.
Kevin Hart: A good script is always important; we have both in this one. We had a great cast, and we had a better script, not that the first script wasn’t solid, but the first script came from the book so there was an outline and blueprint for it. On this one, we had to be a little bit more creative. I say “we”—I’m not taking responsibility. The writers had to be a little bit more creative.
RH: I’ll take responsibility.
KH: Regina, you didn’t write.
TJ: I’ll throw a third thing on there. The cast, the script, and then a director with vision. There’s a part in the script where it says, “The girls jump on the bar to sing ‘Poison’.” Right? And that could have been shot a million different ways, but Tim Story, who has a background in music videos, took that and took it to a completely different level. I would say those three things.
Capone: I was going to ask about that scene in particular, because that scene is funny, and I’ve seen that done in movies before, but not like this. He shot it like a video.
RH: And then gave the video credit at the end.
Capone: Yeah, that’s right. He lit it differently, and it looked more polished. When you’re talking about a script, in a post-HANGOVER world, when you set something in Vegas, how do you make that different? What did you like about the way this script approached the Vegas adventure?
KH: Go ahead, Regina. You want to go first?
RH: One thing I was going to say is I like that we were still able to have a Vegas adventure and make it funny, but that it was still PG-13, so that my mother could think it was funny, and my best friends could think it was funny, and then my niece could think it was funny. Kevin’s little nephew, he’s eight, he goes to NC-17 stuff. I remember that. But my nieces don’t. So I like that it can appeal to a grandmother and still have humor.
KH: Yeah, what you’re doing you’re taking pieces from things that have worked beyond belief, and then after that you try to bring your approach to that. You’re talking about your HANGOVERs, your BRIDESMAIDS. You’re looking at two movies that had completely different elements, but both serve the same purpose, which was craziness within this women’s environment with BRIDESMAIDS, the same thing within a men’s environment with THE HANGOVER, and you incorporate both of those, and then our theme of THINK LIKE A MAN—the thing we had in the beginning. You’re in a cesspool of so much, but we grounded it enough to where it’s not too much, but we give you enough to where it’s like, “Oh my god, they went there. Look how crazy they’re being.” It’s so much fun.
RH: It’s more like the kind of weekend real people in Vegas have, unlike THE HANGOVER, where it’s like, “Oh my god!”
KH: The craziness in our film where I see the HANGOVER appeal happens in the scene of us going to prison. We come out for a platonic couple of days, and we’re just supposed to get in our little fill for one night; the women are supposed to do what they’re going to do for the night, and it just turns into mayhem.
RH: Can i have your sweatshirt?
KH: No, Regina. I just got back from the gym; I sat in the steamroom; I didn’t take a shower.
RH: Oh, that's what I smell. Can I have your sweatshirt, Terrance?
KH: You see the difference? Do you see the difference? That why I married him [in the film, Hall and Jenkins play the couple getting married in Vegas].
Capone: It’s not that hard to see.
KH: Terrance just got that shirt. Did you just get that shirt?
KH: I could tell you just got that. What kind of shirt is that? [reaches for the back of Jenkins collar to discover the tag is still attached]
KH: Terrance, take the tag off! Are you taking it back?
TJ: [slightly embarrassed] Yes.
KH: [laughs] Okay, don’t take it off.
RH: I like it.
Capone: I think seeing this exchange might have answered this question, but at this point with these movies in particular, does it just feel like you’re just getting paid to like hang out and have fun with your friends? Don’t you feel a little guilty about that?
KH: [laughs] We don’t feel guilty at all. No. I mean, listen, you’re looking at a bunch of people who have put their blood, sweat, and tears into their craft, and before you can get to the point where you can enjoy this level of success, there’s a role that people don’t talk about. So when you say, “Do you feel guilty for getting paid to have a good time?” No, because to get here, we didn’t get paid to not have a good time.
Capone: You were getting paid very little to have a miserable time.
KH: Yes yes, so now we’re lucky to...
RH: All those “No’s” from our agents.
KH: Yeah, yeah. We’re lucky to have a group of people that we do get along with, because think about it if it was the opposite, if it was people you don’t like, and you had to do press junkets and press tours and be around these people that you just don’t care for. Now you’re putting on a facade when you’re doing these interviews, and you’re not being real. And I think you guys can see through that, so can people that are watching TV or reading whatever media outlet you’re with. But when it’s organic like this, you feed off of this positive energy.
Capone: I’ve definitely been a part of junkets where you can tell the people I’m talking to hate the movie.
KH: [to someone just outside the room] Hey, can we turn the air on higher?
RH: [joking but not joking] Fuck you. You know I get cold. You know I get cold. You don’t give a shit.”
KH: [laughs] I’m fresh from the gym right now, my body’s hot as shit for no reason at all. I’m sitting here as we’re talking going “Damn, it’s hot in here.”
TJ: Yo, his transcript is going to be a mess.
Capone: The first film was about that male chemistry and the female chemistry. I loved it because there was so much conversation, and it was actually about getting to know these people. This is more of an adventure, more of a flat-out comedy. What did you do to maintain a bit of what made the first film special?
TJ: It goes back to what we said earlier about the script and the director and the cast, because this movie kinda tricks you the whole time into thinking it’s not a relationship movie, and then there’s this sequence in the fourth act when it all comes together, and you’re like, wow. We’ve been watching all of these different stories… [Regina holds up three fingers]. Girl, what are you doing? Oh yeah, third act, sorry— I just lost my train of thought [laughs]
KH: He meant to say third act.
RH: It’s okay, it’s only being recorded.
KH: I’m going to sum this up, I’m going to tell you what we did differently.
RH: It’s wrong. I can already tell.
KH: We raised the female in the story. That’s it. The female storyline is much stronger.
RH: That’s true. The friendships between the women and the men are so important.
KH: So important.
TJ: And like I said, in the fourth act is when we really get to the culmination of those things.
RH: You realize what’s important. And I will say this; All the friendships add to the relationships. The guys being with the girls having fun, you always saw Gary being a really doting husband. But getting to those moments of why every couple was in Vegas, they were in Vegas for a wedding, they’re in Vegas for, Romany is like, “This trip has made me realize I love you.” “I’m ovulating in Vegas.” It’s everything that they’re going through, and you get to a moment where they come to their own conclusion, their own personal relationships.
KH: In part one, it was so much more focus on the guys, and we were so focused on selling a movie that’s not a romantic comedy, that’s sappy.
RH: Which worked.
KH: It was this guys’ version of a romantic comedy, told from a male perspective, and in part two, we elevate the women now, and show “Yes, we did like this in THINK LIKE A MAN, but let’s change it up, and let’s give these women a bigger story line, and there was a balance. I felt like at no point in time did you ever loose track of any character or any couple’s journey. Whether it was me carrying comedy for a second, whether it was them tracking the story with Miss Loretta being involved, whether it was Dominic and Lauren, and them going back and forth and battling with the job. Zeke and Mya and their whole trial with marriage, and “Do you want me? I still feel like you’re still your old guy. And then like she said Garry and Wendi’s character, everybody had a story line, but you tracked it. I’m the only character that didn’t progress at the end.
RH: But you know what? The truth is Gale-zilla was still present, so you knew he was married, and he still got jealous, so we still knew he had feelings.
KH: But also for the first time, I feel like in Cedric’s life he has to point the finger at himself.
RH: He has to take responsibility.
KH: I have to go, I’m not the best best man. I didn’t come through for you.
TJ: There’s that moment in the jail cell when you come to that epiphany, and you see the growth in all these characters, and like you said, it’s amazing to watch how everybody gets their proper due, and everybody gets their resolution at the end.
Capone: When you’re shooting in Vegas, I’m assuming that room, that giant room was real. It wasn’t built?
KH: Which one?
RH: Those are the rooms for the whales.
TJ: Oh, the Constantine Villa. All that’s real.
RH: Those are the whale villas.
TJ: Yeah, Floyd [Mayweather] really stays in that. He’s been in that villa. It’s the real deal. Kevin now probably-- Do you stay in that room?
RH: That’s for the gigantic, gigantic gamblers. They’re whales.
KH: They’re sharks.
KH: Whales that go and stay, and they give those rooms to them. But Caesars was really nice to us.
TJ: What’s the difference between a shark and a whale? How much financially do you have to spend?
RH: A whale is huge.
KH: A whale is $50 million-$70 million. Yeah, those are whales.
RH: I’m a whale.
KH: Actually, I actually went into a high-stakes room one time. A lady was staying there.
KH: I think she was Korean.
RH: Yeah. I’ve met a couple of those. They’re always the whale.
KH: Holy mother of god. She’s betting like $100,000-$150,000 thousand in a hand.
RH: I met a male whale, whatever you call them, but he was in there like downstairs, and they were in a back room. And I was like, “Are you sure you want to bet that much?” Nice little Asian man.
KH: No, very serious.
Capone: We touched on Tim Story’s abilities, and Kevin, last time you were in town with RIDE ALONG, we talked about this a little bit, but I wanted to nail it down and ask, what does he do differently? Other than work really fast, apparently.
KH: He actually doesn’t. He takes the standard time. The movies, and I’m guilty of this as well, it’s a mental trick that you can play with your audience. It seems you never disappear, but what you’re doing is you’re doing things in two-year increments. So, you’ve got to think, THINK LIKE A MAN was done in....
RH: A year ago?
KH: No, it was more than a year ago.
TJ: We shot two years ago.
KH: We shot two years ago.
RH: Oh, you mean the original? Oh, I was thinking you meant when we shot this one.
TJ: Three years ago actually.
KH: THINK LIKE A MAN was done in...
KH: 2011, because after that we did...
RH: It came out in 2012.
KH: Yeah, THINK LIKE A MAN came out, and then after it came out is when things got going, and I got a little heat, we booked RIDE ALONG, but I didn’t do RIDE ALONG until later that year, so after 2012, RIDE ALONG. RIDE ALONG didn’t come out for like a year and a half to almost two years after we shot it.
RH: And neither did ABOUT LAST NIGHT.
KH: So they’re all in two-year increments, because Tim needs six months to go through the editing process, and with the DGA, you have to be down. So he can’t start pre-production on anything else until that’s complete. So when you look at his movies, it’s only THINK LIKE A MAN, RIDE ALONG, and then THINK LIKE A MAN TOO. That’s it.
Capone: So as a director of actors, what is different about him, and what sets him apart from all the others?
TJ: He sleeps with all the women.
RH: I was going to say his hands. He’s good with his hands.
KH: He is the most personable guy, down-to-earth, at-ease director. I hold on to great relationships, because if it’s not broken no need to fix it, but the way he communicates with everybody is special.
RH: And you know what I like about it too? Whenever you do something with Tim, he never will discourage you, because the thing with comedy is you have to feel free to try stuff. [to Kevin] You’re probably used to it because you do stand up every now and then, so you are probably semi comfortable.
KH: [indignant] I think I’m a stand-up comedian, but you know.
RH: Ehhh... I wouldn’t take that title.
KH: Regina, I’m a full-blown comedian.
TJ: You’re a movie actor; you’re a movie star.
RH: I wouldn’t say either of those.
TJ: You’re a film star.
RH: I wouldn’t say movie star or film star.
KH: I’m about to do my fifth stand-up tour!
RH: You know what I will call you? I will call you a performer.
KH: This is ridiculous.
TJ: You’re an actor.
RH: You’re a performer. You’re a performer. I’m not gonna say that you’re... Cuz that’s a lot to say.
RH: People call him a rapper.
KH: What ever you want me to be. This is ridiculous.
RH: But I would say the thing with Tim is you have to in order to keep somebody-- even if you try something and it doesn’t work, he’s not going to say, “Oh, that didn’t work.” But what he will do is say, “Great. Let’s try something else.” There’s so much latitude, so much freedom working with a director that allows you the opportunity to explore your own range.
TJ: There’s a scene in the film where we get into a fight, a bar fight, and my character originally in the script like just gets hemmed up and beat up and thrown, and then you come out and save me. And I begged Tim, “You already know I’m a momma’s boy. When I get one punch in? Can I just jump up and punch somebody on behalf of my girl?” And Tim said, “T, would that make you feel good?” And I was like, “Yeah, I would just love to get in a punch. I’ve never punched in a film.” He said, “Cool. We’ll shoot it.” And he put it in the movie. To be able to go to your director and do things that make you happy on set, there’s nobody like Tim Story. He’s the best.
KH: I’m surprised he put that in, because I told him to take that out.
Capone: We talked about the music video scene, let’s talk about the male strip club scene. How many hours or days did you guys take to pick out your costumes, and did you do a little extra workout that morning?
RH: Kevin, you already had yours, didn’t you?
KH: No I did not.
RH: That’s what I heard.
KH: They had several costumes, and I told them I’m a game player. So whatever is best for the project, and they felt that it was best for my body to be exposed as much as possible for my female audience.
Capone: Of course.
RH: I protested that.
KH: I did it.
RH: I’m still protesting. They said the film is locked, but I think we’ve still got until June 20.
KH: Our biggest test scores came in from the scenes where I was half dressed.
RH: I don’t believe that.
KH: Nobody got those numbers?
TJ: You know what was crazy? On the first film, the movie took place over a six-month period, I would say. The relationships took time. In six months, people were breaking up and getting back together. So, you wore an outfit, you’d shoot in it for a day. You wore another outfit, maybe two days. For this film, it was over a three-day weekend. So we could be living in the pool scene for a week straight, and so I had no idea. I’d never shot a movie like this. I didn’t know how that worked. So when we took our shirt off for the first scene and realized “You’re going to be like this for a month, without your shirt. This is it.” So we did so much exercise, we did all kinds of push ups and sit ups. In between takes, Kevin would have this little--
KH: Hand roller.
TJ: And you’d just see Kevin just rolling on set. Like, “Yo, Kev. Can we cool down here? Like, what’s happening?”
KH: It was a serious thing.
RH: We were lucky. We didn’t have any scenes like that.
TJ: Yeah, but y'all already looked good.
KH: No, they didn’t. The thing about the women is they didn’t care as much about their bodies, which is fine because it works. But for the men, we definitely did. [Regina is getting noticeably irritated] But I mean look, either way, the way it cuts together is great. Regina, they did a lot of digital adjustment for the women.
RH: Of for you? For your body? Your breasts weren’t that big. They didn’t have to cut them down that much. I didn’t mind it. They asked if I would cut and play; they said, “We have a lot of digital shit to correct with Kevin, so would you mind? We’re asking everybody to take 20 percent off their original pay, so we can get this done in post.” And I said, “If it will help the movie as a whole, take my 20 percent.”
Capone: You had to learn a little choreography though, right?
RH: Yeah, we did. The fight had to look good.
KH: You know what actually I love? I love when you fall off the bar, when you do the thing at the end of the video. I don’t even know if people hear that because they’re laughing so hard. That’s a funny moment to me. She’s having a good time, and the one thing that’s still on her mind is the damn flowers that she asked for from the wedding.
Capone: Well, thank you all so much.
RH: Thank you.
Capone: Good to see you again.
KH: Thank you, man. Always good. Can we turn the air up guys?