When O’Shea Jackson Jr. was preparing to play his father in “Straight Outta Compton,” the N.W.A founding member gave him one big tip on set: Don’t frown in every scene.
“He told me that we all have our good days and our bad days,” Jackson recalled on the black carpet of the film’s premiere Monday, held at Microsoft Theater in Downtown L.A. “This movie is about humanizing these N.W.A music icons and showing everybody they laugh, cry and bleed like everyone else.”
The Universal Pictures film, which rolls out in theaters Friday, follows the iconic rap group N.W.A from its scrappy beginnings in the mid-‘80s to its unlikely success and death of member Eazy-E. The film was co-produced by N.W.A’s founding members Dr. Dre (Andre Young) and Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson). Fellow members MC Ren and DJ Yella also showed up to the premiere to support the film.
“There are so many important elements in the story: rags to riches, the American dream … I couldn’t think of a better story to tell,” said director F. Gary Gray. “It was hard, it was great, it was challenging and we survived it. I feel so good about the outcome.”
Fans of the group showed up in masses to catch glimpses of the original members and the fresh-faced cast who play them on the big screen, including Jackson Jr., Corey Hawkins (as Dre), Jason Mitchell (as Eazy-E), Neil Brown Jr. (as DJ Yella) and Aldis Hodge (as MC Ren).
“I grew up with this music,” said Jonelle Glazer, a 44-year-old from Inglewood. She and her 21-year-old daughter Rebecca Colon took a two-hour bus ride to get to downtown by 8 a.m. They were first in line to get seats in the bleachers.
“We heard about getting tickets through Facebook,” Glazer said. “The first 100 people here got to be on the carpet. We both took the day off to come. I’m definitely excited to see the movie. This is something back in my day people were scared of talking about and didn’t want to see. Now to see it in such a big entertainment medium is impressive.”
The carpet was decked out with a DJ, who perched on top of a giant record with the N.W.A name on display. “COMPTON” was spelled out in the sky by skywriters above the venue ahead of the premiere.
Also present at the flashy premiere: Cops. The Los Angeles Police Department had “several officers” on patrol including special events officers from the department’s Central Bureau, Officer Mike Lopez told The Times on Monday.
Private security patrols from L.A. Live were also assigned to cover the event. Attendees had to brave long lines and go through metal detectors to get into the venue.
Inside the theater, an hour after the film was scheduled to premiere, Dr. Dre, Cube and Ren gave thanks to the audience for all of the support. The group gave a special shout-out to Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley, whom Cube called the “sixth member of N.W.A.”
But the festivities didn’t end there. A massive after-party, held at the rooftop deck of L.A. Live, was packed until as late as 2 a.m.
Photos of the actors playing the N.W.A members hung above the tented room where guests grabbed drinks and food (a spread that included everything from chicken and waffles to kale salad). Among them: actress Vivica A. Fox and rapper Snoop Dogg.
Clouds of marijuana smoke wafted into the air in certain VIP areas of the party, as more guests began bopping to the DJ’s jams under the disco ball on the dance floor.
Los Angeles Times staff writer Matt Hamilton contributed to this report.