PLAYBACK is a Variety / iHeartRadio podcast bringing you conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films. New episodes air every Thursday.
Kevin Hart has had an eventful few weeks, to say the least. He was tapped to host the Oscars in December, only to pull out after first refusing to apologize for previous homophobic comedy material (he said he already has), then ultimately doing so. He began the new year by sitting down with Variety‘s “Playback” podcast before heading off to record a thoroughly covered episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and now he’s in the thick of a press blitz for “The Upside,” which is naturally being overshadowed by these events. This episode was initially released last week amid that flurry, as Hart said unequivocally that he was “done” with the prospect of ever emceeing the Academy Awards, just before he appeared to rethink the situation with DeGeneres. All caught up?
“The moment came and it was a blessing and I was excited at the opportunity and I still am — in my mind I got the job, it was a dream job, and things came up that simply prohibited it from happening,” Hart says. “But I don’t believe in going backwards. When I go on that stage, it will be because I’ve somehow figured out a way to win the Oscar. Somehow I’ll get to the stage but it’s not going to be in this way because it just comes with such a weird cloud at this point.”
On to “The Upside,” a remake of the 2012 French drama “The Intouchables.” The film was stuck at The Weinstein Company in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal. More than a year after first premiering at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival, it’s finally making its way to screens via STX Entertainment and Hart is eager for the world to finally see him try out his drama chops.
“The energy that was on that set was mind-blowing,” he says. “It was the first movie that I’ve shot in Philadelphia, where I was born. The potential for this movie was huge so when all of that stuff [with Weinstein] happened, it was one of those things where you kind of just had to step back and understand that what was taking place was bigger than us and our movie and if it was meant to be then it would be. STX wanted to get this piece of property out and they felt it was strong enough for the world to see. It’s a feel-good movie, a good spirit movie. We got a call just saying, ‘There’s people that worked very hard that shouldn’t have to suffer from the experiences and doings of one other and we’re going to see to it that those people get the right credit [with a big release].'”
It was a dream job to collaborate with actors like Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman. Hart was particularly enamored with Cranston, who transitioned from the sitcom space to become one of the most celebrated dramatic actors of the moment.
“Bryan is the most talented actor I’ve ever worked with,” Hart says. “Seeing a man come from comedy and being able to take on the dramatic roles that he takes on at the level he does, it’s inspiring. It’s something that I can only hope to do. Can I get there? Can I get to that level? And if so, how? So I was a sponge soaking up as much information as I possible could, just picking his brain all day every day. What you realize is he’s just a good guy, and that’s something that isn’t celebrated enough in a business where you have so many not good guys.”
For more, including discussion of the career and global brand Hart has built from the ground up, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link below.
|Kevin Hart photographed exclusively for the Variety Playback Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety