Run-DMC. The Beastie Boys. Rakim. Big Daddy Kane. LL Cool J. Nas. Jay Z.
Vanilla Ice (born Robert Van Winkle), the one-hit wonder behind the inescapable “Under Pressure”-sampling 1990 pop-rap sensation “Ice Ice Baby,” will be getting the movie biopic treatment before any of these legends of the genre. Actor Dave Franco confirmed as much when he told Insider’s Jason Guerrasio that the film, called To the Extreme after Ice’s debut album and in which he’ll headline, “has been in development for a while” but is “inching closer and closer to preproduction.”
While this news may feel like a crime against hip-hop, or at least its pioneers, it’s not entirely surprising.
Hollywood has long had a fascination with His Iceness, not to mention white rappers, dating back to 1991’s Cool as Ice, the multi-Razzie-nominated box office turkey that followed only one year on the heels of To The Extreme’s release — and was reportedly a response by Universal’s now-defunct SBK Records to news that (the much more well-established rapper) Ice Cube was set to make his acting debut in a little film called Boyz n the Hood.
It was easily the fastest any rapper had parlayed musical success into a big-screen star vehicle, and we’ve rarely seen it since — perhaps the only notable exception being the more prestigious, Curtis Hanson Eminem drama 8 Mile (2002), released only three years after his breakout debut, The Slim Shady LP.
Even before Cool as Ice was released, the rapper appeared in the 1991 live-action sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. And the film industry still holds plenty of nostalgia for the performer’s feasible rhymes, who in recent years has dabbled more in the arenas of rock and reality TV. During a 2016 presentation for their animated sequel Ice Age: Collision Course, Fox trotted out the rapper to rock the mic like a vandal and light up the stage with a rendition of “Ice Age Baby.”
Major hip-hop biopics in general are getting more popular as the genre turns middle-aged, but they’re still rare. Films on Biggie (2009’s Notorious) and 2Pac (2017’s All Eyez on Me), the two rappers generally considered the greatest lyrical poets of all time, weren’t released until years after their deaths. The 2015 NWA drama Straight Outta Compton, however, proved they can be both lucrative box office draws and awards contenders, while the recent Wu-Tang Clan series An American Saga showed they can make for multi-chapter affairs on television or streaming.
— DiscussingFilm (@DiscussingFilm) July 22, 2020
In regards to To the Extreme, there’s still reason to believe it could hit the bullseye: Franco might just be the perfect person to play Vanilla Ice, especially considering what will apparently be more a tongue-in-cheek approach to his life story.
Franco has the physical resemblance down, and as he’s proven in films like 21 Jump Street, Neighbors, Now You See Me and If Beale Street Could Talk, he’s a major talent who continues to pump out impressive performances when it’s time to get loose in both comedy and drama.
As he told Insider, they’re looking to take a similar approach with To the Extreme as they did 2017’s The Disaster Artist, the hilarious, crowd-pleasing, Oscar-nominated comedy about Tommy Wiseau (James Franco, who also directed), the eccentric filmmaker behind the world’s best horrible movie, The Room. The Disaster Artist, in which Dave costarred as Wiseau’s co-conspirator Greg Sestero, made for a hell of a concept.
"With that movie, people expected us to make a broad comedy where we make fun of Tommy Wiseau, but the more real we played it, the funnier and heartfelt it was — that's the tone we want for this one as well," the younger Franco told Insider.
While To the Extreme does not currently have a director attached, chances are it won’t be James Franco, whose rep has taken a battering the last few years after multiple women accused him of inappropriate or sexually exploitative behavior after taking his acting class.
Written by Chris Goodwin and Phillip Van, To the Extreme was described in a 2019 Production Weekly casting call with this logline: “From a high school dropout selling cars in Dallas to having the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts with ‘Ice Ice Baby,’ a young Vanilla Ice struggles with stardom, extortion attempts, and selling out as he makes music history.”
Franco, who makes his directorial debut with this week’s on-demand thriller The Rental, says he’s been collaborating with and listening to his future subject.
“Rob is such a sweet and intelligent guy and he's been super helpful in the process of getting all the details correct and making us privy to information the public doesn’t know,” he told Insider. “Just talking to him I can’t help but think about the rabbit holes I’m going to go down to get ready for the role.”
So sure, there may be other hip-hop stars more deserving of biopic commemorations, but at least this one’s got some legit potential.
Which reminds us… when is MC Hammer is getting his movie?
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