Eminem was busy rehearsing for his upcoming performance at the MTV EMAs, but his home town was not about to let the 15th anniversary of his hit film 8 Mile pass without notice.
A charity screening commemorating the mark took place Wednesday night — 15 years to the night of its nationwide opening — at the Bel Air Luxury Cinemas on Detroit’s actual Eight Mile Road. The film was shown in nine of the complex’s 10 theaters with cast members Omar Benson Miller, rapper Miz Korona and real-life Detroit radio personality Bushman attending along with longtime Eminem cohort Denaun Porter and other rappers (T3 of Slum Village), Donte “Polo Frost” Grantham, MidWest Rico Lavelle), Cristen Metoyer of VH1’s Basketball Wives and a variety of football players,
“That time went so fast. It feels like time has passed, but not 15 years,” Miller, who played Sol George from Eminem’s posse in the film and is currently a co-star on HBO’s Ballers, told Billboard while walking the red carpet before the screening. “I thought more of the (cast) guys were gonna be here, but I’m glad I was able to make it.
“People to this day come up to me more about (8 Mile) than any other film I’ve done. I think the movie endured because of the authenticity. A hundred years from now, if you wanted to see what life was like in the Midwest at the turn of the century, you can watch that film and what people were up to.”
Miller, who was a 22-year-old actor just out of college when the also credited the late director Curtis Hanson with making “a masterpiece of storytelling” and also gave full props to Eminem for a transformative performance that many did not expect from a neophyte actor.
“Marshall (Mathers) was fantastic in the movie,” Miller noted. “He was always super generous. He was always there. He was always very open, which was just great. I knew him only from his music from when I was in school; I used to listen to his music, and next thing I knew I was working with him. A really shy guy until you get to know him, and then he’s not shy at all.”
8 Mile, which was filmed primarily in metro Detroit, also starred Kim Bassinger, Mekhi Phifer and the late Brittany Murphy. It grossed more than $250 million in theaters worldwide, and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself won an Academy Award for best original song — success that floored those even in Eminem’s camp at the time.
“I didn’t think it was going to be a movie at all,” said Porter, who was part of D12alongside Eminem and co-wrote and co-produced tracks for the rapper’s upcoming album. “You lived it. It was happening down the street. It’s kind of like watching your life on the screen, so it was weird the whole time. It’s still weird to watch it, but I think it means a lot to be able to tell the story like that, and it transcends through the whole world like that. It’s kinda crazy. There’s not a movie like that.”
Miz Korona, who made a brief cameo rapping in the film when she was 21, said that “to see 15 years fly by so quickly is just mind-blowing.” But she wasn’t surprised by 8 Mile’s success. “I had a feeling it was gonna be a big deal once they said what the movie was about — but I definitely didn’t imagine the move was going to be like this,” she said.
T3 said he also had a feeling at the time that 8 Mile would do well. “I knew the power of the brand of Em and all that, so I knew it would be big,” he said. “And now it’s a classic. We’re still talking about it 15 years later.” He added that 8 Mile’s portrayal of Detroit’s underground hip-hop culture was accurate, which also gave the film achieve lift-off.
It definitely depicted how the underground scene was at the time,” the MC noted, and it showcased the factories that we worked in. That’s what it was, factories and the Hip Hop Shop. That’s what kind of kept us focused on the music. It was a Detroit story and it showed Detroit in a proper light that nobody had seen before.”
Actor Miller, meanwhile. enjoyed the opportunity as a hip-hop fan to immerse himself in the leading edge of that world. “That was my first starstruck moment in my life because I met Dr. Dre on the set,” he recalled. “I went to get a granola bar and he was getting some coffee, and I was like, ‘Whoa…’ So being a hip-hop fan and then getting to be in what a lot of people consider to be the best hip-hop movie of all time is a great treat.”
Eminem has not acted since 8 Mile, though he’s been rumored for a variety of projects. Porter said that he’s not surprised; “He always says the same thing, it takes too much time from music. So maybe when he slows down from music — you always say that, but…he’s not gonna do that. I think he’s got respect for other actors, wo when you have respect for other actors you don’t want to jump into something. he really wanted to give it 110 percent.”
Wednesday’s screening benefited the Community Music School’s Verses Project, a joint project with Michigan State University to teach urban youth literary skills through songwriting and music production. Eminem’s Marshall Mathers Foundation provides partial funding for the program.
The 8 Mile 15th anniversary celebration continues Thursday night with a party and freestyle rap battle, as well as a performance by Miz Korona, at the Detroit’s Saint Andrews Hall. Eminem, meanwhile, is continuing to prepare for his EMAs performance, where he’s rumored to be planning to announce details about his ninth studio album, the follow-up to 2013’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2. He’s teased the title with ads for a faux drug called Revival, and his social media on Tuesday featured a photo of a Revival prescription pad with the message “Walk On Water,” take as needed. Eminem will also be performing Nov. 18 on Saturday Night Live.
PHOTO: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File