In his new film, The Upside, Kevin Hart plays an ex-con named Dell, who is desperately trying to get his life in order. With money short and time with his son even shorter, Dell needs to find work or get in trouble with his parole officer. When he answers an ad for a nurse aid, he has no intention of actually applying, he just wants a signature saying that he made the attempt. However, wealthy wheelchair bound businessman Phillip, played by Bryan Cranston, sees something in Dell that he likes and takes a chance on him. The odd couple then go on a literal and figurative ride that will change both of their lives.
The Upside is a remake of a French film named Les Intouchables and is directed by Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist, Divergent) and finds Kevin taking on one of the more serious roles of his recent career. Phil is a wealthy but unhappy quadriplegic struggling to make emotional connections but he bonds with Dell over things that are enjoyable, like music and fast cars. In an interview with BET.com, Kevin and Bryan talk about the importance of the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin to telling this story and which cars got them through tough times.
BET: Aretha Franklin’s music was such a big part of the film, which song of hers would you sing during karaoke?
KH: I would go with “Respect.” R-E-S-P-E-C-T. There was a nice portion of my life where I spelled “Respect” R-E-S-P-C-T because of the song. I didn’t hear the ‘E.’” That’s one [I’d sing] because that’s something I work hard to get.
BC: [Sings “Nessun Dorma”]
KH: That’s what you’d pick? We heard that a lot…
BC: My God, she sings “Nessun Dorma” just like… it’s astonishing. That’s part of the movie.
KH: I was educated to that from the movie. I wasn’t aware of that until…
BET: As was I. There is a great scene in the garage with the cars. Kevin, I read that your brother gave you your first car. Do you remember the first cars you bought with your own money?
KH: The first car that I bought, my credit score was so bad. I’m in Los Angeles, I need a car, I just made a little bit of money. Naturally I want a nice car, but because of my credit, it’s not going to happen. I got a Ford Explorer Sport. The two-door. I was paying $1,200 a month for a Ford Explorer Sport. That’s how bad that my credit was.
BC: Didn’t you have a car in Philadelphia?
KH: Yeah, I couldn’t take that [to L.A.].
BC: That’s the one I want to know about.
KH: That was a Pontiac Trans Am. It was one of the ones that they just left on the street that my brother found and gave to me. One of the headlights worked, one didn’t. It only started up on days that it felt like it.
BC: I know the feeling. [My first car] was a Pontiac Delta ’88. A ’67. You started it up and it was [makes rumbling noise]. It got a glorious six miles per gallon and it leaked oil constantly.
KH: After the Ford Explorer Sport, I said when I finally get some real money I’m gonna treat myself. And the first car that I treated myself to was an SLS with Gulf Wings. And that car, that just sits in my garage. It’s a car with a memory attached to it.
BD: Do you drive it at all?
KH: Very rarely. From time to time. I have cars with memories attached.
BC: How many cars do you have?
KH: We don’t need to discuss that. We don’t need to discuss that. It’s just stupid, and I’m not even going to put it out there.
KH: I’m not even gonna put it out there. People will look at me crazy. I’m up there. I have a nice amount of cars. Put it this way, if I bring another car home my wife is going to kick me out the house. She’s not happy with the garage in the driveway at all. “Look at this shit!”
The Upside is in theaters Friday January 11.