“I was living in New York all through the 1980’s and I heard Grandmaster Flash and Run DMC on the radio with their early hits. When rap music came out first I didn’t see the music as just songs — I saw them as the urban films that Hollywood wouldn’t touch, the screenplays that they were afraid to make.
“When I went back to Ireland, I kept up an interest in it — I’d be driving round in the car playing Snoop Doggy Dog and Coolio, and Bono would wind me up about it. ‘You’re not really into that stuff, are you?’ — he’d be always slagging me.”
Bono was a catalyst for Sheridan’s involvement in the 50 Cent project. The producer of “Get Rich Or Die Tryin,” Interscope Records supremo Jimmy Iovine who put out 50 Cent’s albums, was an engineer in his pre-mogul days on U2’s “Rattle and Hum” album, and the recent amalgamation of Interscope Geffen A&M Records into Universal Music Group results in U2 being contracted to the same musical behemoth as 50 Cent himself.
Sheridan had looked at dozens of scripts for rap movies before he signed up for the 50 Cent feature — because he liked the artist, and he felt that his life story had themes that feature in his own films and personal background.
“Sure, on one level it’s a ‘Rocky’ story where a guy comes out of the ghetto and succeeds in the music business, but it’s really about a boy in search of his father, something that I’ve been dealing with in my own work. And I liked 50 Cents’ music before I met him. When we sat down together I felt he had tremendous charisma and wit, something special that would really work on camera. And look, as far as background goes, where I grew up in Dublin around Sheriff Street, we had to live with a lot of the same stuff he had on his turf in Queens — junkies on the corner, danger on the street, drug dealers working in broad daylight.”
Sheridan shot most of the film in the Bronx, at High Bridge, with some scenes shot in Canada, and, oddly enough, Ireland.
“The film shows a side of New York that isn’t the bourgeois Tavern On The Green end of Manhattan. And we shot a lot of it in Toronto — the nice parts of Toronto and the nice parts of New York are very different, but the poor parts of most North American cities are alike — the 99-cent shops, the check-cashing places, the cheap take-aways. We even shot a few days in Ireland at Ardmore Studios. I always work that way, I always want to re-shoot a few crucial scenes after we’ve wrapped the whole thing and we’re starting to edit it.
“I know that there are scenes we can do better than we did the original shoot, so I worked it out that when 50 Cent was doing his concerts in Dublin this year, I got him to come down to Ardmore for a few days to do some interior scenes and re-work the lines.”
Heavy security on the set was standard procedure while shooting in New York, a policy that took Sheridan back to the difficulties of filmmaking in pre-ceasefire times in Northern Ireland.
“The rap crew hanging around the set reminded me of republicans up in the north years ago — they’d be best mates, comrades-in-arms, ready to die for one another one day; next thing you know, they have a big falling out over nothing, and they’d be splitting into factions trying to kill each other.”