50 Cent says reliving the night he was shot nine times and left for dead wasn't as hard as letting himself cry in front of the camera -- but he wanted the world to see two sides of himself in "Get Rich or Die Tryin'."
"I learned to be aggressive on the street," says the gangsta rapper, as he sat down with reporters at a New York hotel to talk up his new film. "But at home, I'm my grandmother's baby."
The new film, opening Wednesday, already sparked controversy when billboards depicted the bare-chested rapper with a mic in one hand and a pistol in the other. Paramount Pictures bowed to community activists in Los Angeles and removed the poster. But it left 50 Cent wondering why Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie didn't face the same ire when they brandished guns on promotional materials for "Mr. & Mrs. Smith."
"If we walk into our local Blockbuster, we'll see guns on the cover of DVDs, probably more than we'll see people's faces," 50 says. "But as soon as they see me with a gun on a billboard, they go, 'Oh my God, this is promoting violence!'"
"I do appreciate it," he says, laughing about the publicity that comes with controversy. "They are talking about it on media outlets I didn't have plans to market the movie to. They are helping me out."
Not that 50 Cent needs any more publicity. Earlier this year, he became the first recording artist since the Beatles to have four songs in the Top Ten on Billboard's Hot 100. Now, having introduced his own line of sneakers and a "Bulletproof" video game, he's out to make box office gold out of his rise from crack cocaine dealer to America's No. 1 recording artist.
"It's about 75 percent accurate," he says. "It's not exactly my story. It's a collage based on my life."
You might not like his music. You might wonder what message he's sending to kids, and how he's managed to sell more than 16 million CDs. But you can't be surprised that 50 Cent's violent gangster past led him ultimately to Hollywood.
From the earliest days of talkies, films like James Cagney's "Public Enemy" or Edward G. Robinson's "Little Caesar," Hollywood and the underworld have been fascinated with each other, so much so that kingpins like Sammy "The Bull" Gravano credit "The Godfather" as a major inspiration, and FBI wiretaps have caught reputed mafia bosses rehashing episodes of "The Sopranos."
Al Capone was said to like the original version of "Scarface" so much that he owned a copy of the film. The actor George Raft, who played a long string of gangsters in the 1930s, literally invented the tough-talking, coin-flipping mobster -- a character many criminals would emulate.
"In many respects, gangsters learned to be gangsters by watching them at the movies," says Allen Rucker, author of several "Sopranos" guides, including the forthcoming "Entertaining With the Sopranos."
"Raft has his imitators, just as later generations of thugs fell in love with Brando and Pacino and copied them."
But sometimes it's hard to tell whether it's the gangsters who are influencing Hollywood or vice versa. Raft could have learned a thing or two from childhood friend Bugsy Siegel, who lived in Raft's Hollywood home before building his casino legacy in Las Vegas.
The gangster connections hampered Raft's later career. Luckily, he was able to parody his mafia persona later in life in Billy Wilder's "Some Like It Hot," much like Robert De Niro in "Analyze This," and Marlon Brando in "The Freshman."