One of the extras said in an interview that Brittany Murphy was on the set, singing at the top of her lungs and hanging from ladders, but she could instantly get into character when the director was ready. What was she like to be around?
Eminem: Brittany was a good person, a super-nice girl. She was very down-to-earth; she’d talk to anybody.
Jones: And a really good actress. She brought so much to that role.
Phifer: She was bubbly.
Mackie: She was always speaking positivity, and when it was time to get busy, she got busy! Like Evan said, she brought a lot to the role. I remember reading it and not thinking there was so much on the page.
Em, tell me about writing songs on the set.
Eminem: I remember doing “Lose Yourself.” I went to the trailer during lunch and laid a scratch from top to bottom, just one take through and then stacked some ad-libs and shit. I was going to come back and re-do it. I actually ended up keeping it. That’s my most vivid memory—that song, and walking around set with a pad of paper. If I didn’t have that, I’d write it on my hand. I was like a little hamster: I’d go from my lunch trailer to the treadmill to run and then jump to the music trailer to make some beats.
Since we’re discussing “Lose Yourself,” growing up, how was your mom’s spaghetti?
Eminem: How was it? From what I remember, it was pretty damn good. Like goulash. [Laughs]
8 Mile is a dark movie, but there are definitely some bright spots: Cheddar Bob’s gunshot wound; Eminem battling Xzibit. Which day was the most fun on set?
Benson Miller: Wow. The freestyle session in the parking lot was a lot of fun, except it was so long! We were there like 19 hours that day!
Eminem: And like four degrees out.
Phifer: That’s what I was happy to have the dreads for—it was like a little hat.
Benson Miller: You know what? The final battle. Curtis did a really smart thing, and so did Marshall, because he didn’t preview to us what he was going to say. So he just shot the rehearsal.
Mackie: Those reactions are real.
Phifer: When we burned down the house? Em, you remember we almost died in that joint! The pyrotechnic dude almost blew himself up, singed his eyebrows off and all of that. He’s got that surprised look now—no eyebrows.
Eminem: I got my shit singed a little bit, too. I can’t remember exactly how that shit went down, but…
Phifer: Didn’t you jump out the window or some crazy shit?
Mackie: You guys were all on the second floor [with] all the camera guys. The gas line got a kink in it, so the dude turned the gas up and fire flames came kicking out the windows… and the guys all threw their cameras and jumped out the window.
Eminem: Yeah, the shit just fucking went up! I think they got it on film, but then they dropped the camera. What you see in the movie is the actual thing that happened, and then I’m sure they actually cut because the shit was real.
Phifer: It was like an inferno!
Benson Miller: It was so hot. It really was like, six, seven degrees outside, and I remember thinking, Man, I should take my jacket off.
Anthony, they were talking earlier about how people wrote their own rhymes—you didn’t get the chance to rap at the end. I’m just wondering, how nice are you on the mic?
Mackie: Oh, I’m an assassin on the mic.
Eminem: So, you’re not nice at all. You’re completely the opposite. You’re very impolite on the mic.
Mackie: [Laughs] That’s why Curtis only wanted me to have one verse, because he was like, “Nobody’s going to believe that this guy would lose!” [Laughs]
8 Mile ends on such an uncertain note: Will Rabbit succeed? Will he fail? Em, was there any discussion to make the ending more definitive?
Eminem: Nah, I don’t think there ever was. The coolest thing was it was open for interpretation. Curtis was saying was that it was so open you could make your own determination of what happened. You kind of saw where Jimmy was going, but you weren’t 100 percent sure. It could’ve worked out, it could’ve not. But I think one of the coolest things [about the movie is] the ending.
Jones: Yeah, it was just another week in the life. Kids who watch it, they don’t realize.
Benson Miller: It’s the vulnerability; nobody has to be invincible. Everybody has that vulnerable moment that everyone can associate with. In other movies, there’s a glorification oftentimes of the lead; where you want to make the lead so likable and lovable that there’s a superhuman-ness to him. This movie stayed away from that. We’ve gotta give a lot of credit and a lot of love to that.
Eminem, this movie broadened your base to an incredible degree—after its release, you were suddenly surrounded by stadiums of people ages 5 to 55, which is weird considering the word “fuck” is said 200 times in 110 minutes. Were you prepared for parents to like you?
Eminem: My career up to that point was very me-against-the-world. That was the mentality that I had—“Fuck everybody.” And then all of these parents loving me? It was weird. Like, Fuck am I going to do now? I need to figure out a new way to piss people off. I wasn’t ready for that. I still don’t understand it. It is what it is. I don’t even know what that means, but it is what it is.