“I definitely think that I’m positioned in a terrific spot as a young actor. I may not be doing the Eagle Eye and Transformers roles, but I can be a leading man at 27 years old,” said Columbus Short, star of Armored, which is being released nationwide in theaters this Friday, Dec. 4.
Short took half an hour out of his hectic schedule to speak with various African-American media about Armored, black acting in Hollywood, The Princess and the Frog, and Tyler Perry.
“Ty (Short’s character in Armored) was written white. They offered this role to Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, Channing Tatum, and Sam Worthington,” said Short, who lobbied the executives at Sony Pictures to let him play Ty Hackett.
Short cited his strong relationship with his own son to win over the executives. After extensive persuasion, Short was cast as Ty.
Armored is the story of an Iraqi war veteran who has just been honorably discharged. Once he reaches home, he has a hard time finding employment due to his lack of skills and college education. He finally takes a job with an armored truck company to help support himself and his brother, Jimmy (played by Andre Kinney). During an assignment, Ty’s co-workers hijack the truck they are supposed to be guarding.
Rounding out the cast of Ty’s co-workers are Matt Dillon (Crash), Laurence Fishburne (whom Short calls Uncle Fish), Jean Reno (Couples Retreat), Skeet Ulrich (Jericho), and Amaury Nolasco (Prison Break).
“It’s really a character piece for all of the actors involved in this movie,” Short said.
He said he was mainly drawn to the film because of the weight of the character and his opportunity to be a leading man for the second time in his career. As a black actor, Short said, he feels there is still a stigma when it comes to race relations in Hollywood.
“I go through these phases where I’m frustrated with the business and how the game works. I want to work with great filmmakers, like the Rob Marshals, the Scorceses, the Ron Howards, and the Tony Scotts of the world,” said Short, who is planning a college tour around the nation to get the word out about Armored.
He said his goal is to get as many people as possible to buy tickets to see the film. This way, his efforts to be cast in the part will not be in vain.
Short is quite opinionated.
During the interview, he described his feelings about the latest Disney Princess, Tiana, of The Princess and the Frog.
“You know, I have my opinion on the whole thing, and I was corrected,” he said. “Personally, I had an issue with the fact that the animation in the film is 2D, instead of 3D, but I don’t think that there’s an intentional disparagement of our people.”
After screening the film a few weeks ago, Short did his own investigation into, what he felt, was a cheat on the film’s viewing version.
Most children’s films these days are in regular format (2D) and 3D. But in Short’s queries, he found that Disney is trying to appeal more to younger female audience members by hand drawing its princess films.
The Princess and the Frog is just the first film of many to be hand drawn since 2004’s Home on the Range.
Short, while trying to keep his opinions diplomatic, was also asked about the feud brewing between Spike Lee and Bill Cosby against Tyler Perry. He even began his answer with “I might be ridiculed for this…”
He said, “I grew up on cinematic quality and telling a story in the right way. I feel like (Tyler Perry’s films) are a little bit borderline, one dimensional. You can put a camera up and show black people and black people are going to come.”
Of Perry’s eight released films and two TV shows, Short said, “There’s a difference between Spike Lee, Lee Daniels and their films than a Tyler Perry picture. There’s a difference between “The Cosby Show” and “Meet the Browns.”
Short doesn’t totally bash Perry, who’s set to begin production of the famous 1970s play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, due for release in 2011. He praised Perry for stepping in, with Oprah Winfrey, to help Precious get distribution in theaters across the nation.
“There are plenty of actors that, in their whole careers, haven’t gotten the opportunities that I’ve gotten,” said Short, a father and husband who enjoys coming home to his wife, Tanee, and escaping from the illusions of Hollywood. “I’d like to think I have the opportunity to break out and do movies that are color blind. I’m taking it all in stride.”
Photo: Columbus Short