Tyrese Gibson

The actor gets down and dirty about this upcoming director's cut DVD

In Death Race, the fast paced thrill-ride of the summer, Tyrese Gibson stepped into the shoes of Machine Gun Joe, replacing Sylvester Stallone from the original cult classic. In a surprising twist of fate, Gibson was able to take this iconic character and make it his own. With the impending release of the Death Race [Blu-ray] [2 Discs] [Unrated] DVD on December 21st, we caught up with Mr. Gibson to chat about the film and to find out what fans can expect from the all-new unrated director's cut, which promises to be even bloodier than that first spin around the block. Here is our conversation:

How did you manage to come into Death Race and steal Machine Gun Joe away from Sylvester Stallone. He created an iconic character, and you've come in and made it your own.

Tyrese Gibson: (Laughs) Honestly, with all due respect to Sylvester Stallone, I fell like he had the bat and ball in his hand, and he hit it out of the park. I just happened to be on the other side of the fence with a catcher's mitt. I caught the ball and took it, and ran with it. That was my whole approach. I wasn't trying to upstage, or out do, or be better. I just wanted to contribute to what he initiated.

Before taking on this role, did you sit down and watch the original, and think to yourself, "There's one thing I'd like to do different here."

Tyrese Gibson: No. Actually I didn't. I didn't want to watch the film before I did part two. I wanted to just do my thing. If it was a biopic, I would have taken on every reference possible to make sure that I was sticking to the plan. But the director told me that I could bring my own feel to who Machine Gun Joe is in 2008. That's what I set out to do.

I want to know what happened to your car. Did you get to keep it?

Tyrese Gibson: No. Definitely not. It is probably sitting in storage on the Universal lot somewhere, where they keep all of their products and things from their films.

Just like the Ark of the Covenant. Now, how was it to get behind the wheel of this death car? I know that you did a lot of your own driving in the film.

Tyrese Gibson: It was pretty crazy. I didn't get to drive as often as I would have liked to. Those stunt guys did most of the dangerous driving. And I got to do a little something on the side. But nowhere near on the level that I wanted to.

Have you seen the unrated version? And are there any new scenes with Machine Gun Joe that the fans are going to be excited to see?

Tyrese Gibson: I haven't seen the unrated version. I am just about to go watch it right now. I want to see what ended up happening. I need to see that new version, because I understand that it is on a whole other level. Me? I wish they would have kept more of the scene where I am cutting my face. When I was in my prison cell, I was cutting my face. Every time I kill someone, I put a nick on my face. The first scene showing that was so much longer than what they kept in the actual film. I really wish they would have kept more of that in there.

I know that the Blu-Ray DVD has a function that allows you to pick which angle you want to watch during the car chases. How did they shoot that? Did you have to run the entire duration of the race with a camera on your character?

Tyrese Gibson: No. They made that with their technology. What they are doing with these Blu-Rays is pretty amazing. This was all new stuff created inside the computer.

What about some of the kill scenes. Is there one particular scene that you are really excited for people to see that might have missed the film in theatres?

Tyrese Gibson: You know what? That is one of the things that I really wanted the director to allow me to do. Because you keep hearing all of these things about Machine Gun Joe murdering people. And about him being a murderer. Yet, you never see me engaged in the act of murdering other than inside the race itself. I wanted an actual scene. I wanted it, but they didn't give it to me (laughs).

But you do have quite the camaraderie with your navigators. You're the only driver with a male companion.

Tyrese Gibson: Well, they just won't allow anymore female navigators to jump into Joe's car because he is a little too rough with them.

Joe seemed to really want to decimate that last navigator that got in his car.

Tyrese Gibson: Yeah! I think this guy deserved what he got. You can't talk to a boss like that. Joe knows what he is doing. He is a visitor in Joe's ride. Don't tell him how to run his ride. Just do your job. That's what it became.

The end of the film certainly sets things in motion for a sequel. Is that what you guys are planning with this?

Tyrese Gibson: Listen, the film is at $77 million worldwide. And it only cost $45 million to make. I think, unexpectedly, that this film had some real legs. I think the DVD sales and rentals are really going to show the studio that this film has a strong audience out there. And I really hope that the talk of us doing a sequel comes up. Because I loved doing this film. And I would love working with Paul and Jason, and Natalie again. I would love it.

After it hits DVD, this film is going to gained a strong cult audience. How do you feel about that?

Tyrese Gibson: I don't mind. Listen, right now, people are in the business of turning toys and comics into cult franchises. They are talking about doing the A-Team and Thundercats, and all these other types of films. It is what it is. I look at it as paying my respects to films that were around before we got here. I'm just glad that we got to do this film. I would love to do a sequel.

Do you have a direction that you'd like to see your character go?

Tyrese Gibson: I think Jason and me should race each other again. I also think that we should get into a physical fight. Because I like Jason. But our characters are two bosses. Sometimes two bosses clash. It will be a revenge of the Titans sort of thing.

I just saw Statham in Transporter 3, and he's been keeping in shape. Have you been doing the same? Do you think you'll be able to take him this time out?

Tyrese Gibson: Oh, I am ready to go. And it won't be a thing of him outright whooping my ass. That will be a no go. I will not agree to that. It will be more about us both feeling good about the ass whooping that we are going to put on each other. Before I go, I want to leave you with this fan hotline number, because I am so hands on. I communicate with my fans directly. I have a number, and it's free. I am not making any money on it. Nor are the fans charged for calling. The phone number is (818) 287-8968. It is just full throttle communications with the fans. They can reach out and make whatever suggestions they want to make. Or whatever. I am always looking to better myself in all areas.

Death Race [Blu-ray] [2 Discs] [Unrated] hits stores December 21st, 2008