Kevin Hart: Hollywood’s Little Man Talks Big Role In “Grudge Match”

If Kevin Hart has been in a battle with Hollywood, it appears that he’s winning the fight as 2013 has been a banner year for the comic with several films (“Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”/”This Is the End”) and a hit TV show, “Real Husbands of Hollywood,” under his belt.

The 34-year-old comedian is gearing up for his latest film, “Grudge Match,” a dramatic comedy reuniting two boxing legends for one last face-off. Hart plays boxing promoter Dante Slate Jr.—think the son of Don King—an aspiring boxing promoter in his own right who wants to help these old fighters settle a feud from decades ago.

The film finds the Philadelphia-bred funnyman working with Academy Award winners Sylvester Stallone (“Rocky”), Robert De Niro (“Raging Bull”), Kim Basinger (“L.A. Confidential”) and Alan Arkin (“Little Miss Sunshine”).

The story goes, Billy “The Kid” McDonnen (De Niro) and Henry “Razor” Sharp (Stallone) are two local Pittsburgh fighters whose intense rivalry made them huge stars. Each boxer had scored a victory against the other during their heyday, but in 1983, on the eve of their decisive third match, Razor suddenly announced his retirement, refusing to explain why but effectively delivering a knock-out punch to both their careers.

Now, 30-years later, the son of the original boxing promoter Dante Slate (Hart) has a video game project that will allow the fighters to make some quick money. Things don’t go as planned and the feud between the two intensifies, with Razor and The Kid deciding to get in the ring well past their prime to settle things once and for all.

During our interview at the Ritz Carlton Battery Park in New York City, Hart told that working with four Oscar winners was a challenge he was definitely up for.

What was it like working in a supporting capacity with all of these Hollywood heavy-hitters?

I’m up here as a student of the game with a bunch of stars right now. From Sly, to Bobby, to Allen to Kim, I was in great company. I was a kid in a candy store. I got to work with people who’ve been doing this a long time and who’ve all had successful careers. For me, it was just about sitting back watching how they work and appreciating how they approach their craft. So, having so much time with these guys was a dream come true. It makes you feel good when you’re in good company and it makes you feel good when you’re in good company.

As I prepared to ask the next question, Hart interrupted.

Well spoken Kevin Hart!

What was it like playing Dante Slate Jr. in this film?

I got the chance to play a jackass. I was happy. A fast-talking, con-artist, slickster – almost myself. very close to who I am, It was a no-brainer for me. I got to cuss at Sly a few times. It felt good. In one take, I got to say “s—t” to his face. He didn’t know it, but I thought I won a fight. I called my dad afterwards and said: ‘I got to say s—t to Sylvester Stallone.’ But it was good though, my character is what any promoter in boxing is to some degree. You’re all about your business and yourself. At the same time, you’re presenting opportunities to others. That’s who I was.

Sylvester Stallone, Kevin Hart & Robert De Niro in “Grudge Match”

Sly and De Niro worked extensively to get in shape for this film. You’ve been posting a lot of workout pictures of your own on social media.

I was pissed off because I actually worked out and I never got to take my shirt off. That through me for a loop. They promised me a semi-nude and it never happened at all. I wasted my time with my trainer.

Two of the boxing industry’s most notorious fighters, Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield are in this film. What was it like shooting your scene with them?

They threw me in the room. They were like, ‘Kevin just go.’ I didn’t know if it was okay. They were like, ‘You’ll be fine, just talk to them.’ It was funny. Mike was very funny. They even joked about the incident. Mike joked about biting the ear. [Hart goes into a Mike Tyson impression.] It was refreshing to us and it came out really good.

When asked about you being cast in this film, Stallone said: “You Bring in Kevin Hart and its like, Wow, I thought it was very, very clever.” Knowing that him and the other cast members respect what you brought to this film, how does that make you film.

I just watch their approach to their jobs. Anything from being on time to the way they know their material from the breakdown of production. That’s one that I took from Sly, its not just about the script, it was the whole production, the camera placement, the conversations with the director, the relationships with producers and also the rapport with one another. You can’t have a great movie if you don’t get along with the people that you’re working with. I think here, everybody; there was a cordial nice comfortable environment on set. It wasn’t uptight. You didn’t feel like you couldn’t’ work around certain people and couldn’t say certain things. For me, it was just sitting back and learning and I think I did.

Sylvester Stallone, Allan Arkin, Kevin Hart & Robert De Niro in “Grudge Match”


“Grudge Match” opens nationwide of Christmas Day, December 25.

VIDEO: Watch the official trailer for “Grudge Match” below.


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