As Samuel Alito, President George W. Bush’s choice to succeed Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, was facing the first salvo of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I was discussing another Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, with thesp Terrence Howard, who has asked for a delay in the start of the film.

"They’ll have to hold it," Howard told me — "until I learn Thurgood Marshall’s life. [My portrayal] has got to be right; I spent three years getting ready for ‘Hustle and Flow’. I want to spend time in the Senate, Congress, the White House" And Howard did not hold back his opinion of Alito — "he scares me — his past judgments."

Howard was in L.A. Monday for the Critics’ Choice Awards for which he was nominated as Best Actor for "Hustle and Flow" and Best Supporting Actor for "Crash." He then returned to N.Y. to receive the National Board of Review’s award Tuesday night for "Breakout Actor of the Year" for both films. He then returns to L.A. for the Golden Globes in which he’s nominated as Best Actor for "Hustle and Flow" and then the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards’ Ensemble category — nominated with both films. Howard’s versatility is further accentuated by the role he recently wound, playing a cardiological surgeon in "Awake." For this role he studied in operating rooms for four months "shoulder to shoulder with surgeons one foot away from open hearts. I never felt so prepared for a role in my life." And it’s the preparation he wants for Thurgood Marshall.

He is also readying to portray Joe Louis for Spike Lee. He would battle Max Schmeling twice, once losing the crown, then regaining it. Howard is confident about getting in the ring — he did it as Ali in "King of the World" in 1999. "I was 29 and I can handle it now — trust me," he laughed. One role he would have wanted to play was Malcolm X, "But," he allows, "Denzel did such a magnificent job." There is one character Howard will have no difficulty playing — in an autobiographical musical, "Hold on Tight," for which he’s writing the script — and "three or four songs." He’s no stranger to music — hence, "Get Rich or Die Tryin’." And — he travels everywhere with his guitar. 

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