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THE BILLBOARD CONTROVERSY.

Byline: - Bob Strauss

Last month, Paramount Pictures removed some billboards for the movie ``Get Rich or Die Tryin', '' following protests from community groups about their depiction of rapper/actor 50 Cent holding a pistol in one hand and a microphone in the other.

While understanding the basis for the complaints, Curtis ``50 Cent'' Jackson, on whose real life the movie is based, and Irish director Jim Sheridan (``My Left Foot'') find the controversy absurd at best and, at the very least, hypocritical.

``That's incredible to me,'' 50 Cent says. ``You know, the standards placed on music as an art form aren't placed on any other forms of entertainment. The major record labels haven't released an album with a weapon on the cover in years. They feel like certain chains won't accept that, 'cause it's music. But at the same time, if we look at the sections where those same retail chains sell movies, there's weapons all over the place.

``Me, coming from the music standpoint, I believe they're picking on this movie, sayin', 'Oh, it's violent, and the message - get rich or die tryin' - is that what we want to send our kids?' They forget that it's an actual film, and film standards say it's cool, it's OK. Wasn't 'Mr. & Mrs. Smith' just out with poster boards of them both carryin' guns? See what I'm sayin'? I don't think it's a prejudice, personally, to me. I think it's about the actual standards placed on the music.''

``It's a title, but it's not the content of the movie, really,'' adds Sheridan. ``The movie goes further than that. I was very conscious of not makin' a pro-crack, pro-violence movie. I tried as best I could to be conscious of those criticisms before I made it, and I think I succeeded.''

While much of the film, which shares the title of 50 Cent's astonishingly successful 2003 breakthrough album, depicts the early, drug-dealing life of its Jackson-based character, the movie culminates with him becoming a father and rejecting the criminal life for a music career, just as the superstar rapper did after the birth of his own son.

``The poster thing surprised me,'' Sheridan admits. ``That people were complainin' about a gun when nearly every American film is promoted with guns. ... It just makes you realize that, A) every film is promoted with guns, and B), unfortunately, the African-American community lives in a country where you can get guns easily and it's legal. It feels kind of crazy to be talking about cardboard guns when there are so many real ones.''

As for the billboards' removal, ``It's OK,'' Sheridan says. ``I'm conscious of why people are worried. We don't want to be promotin' the idea that you just get a gun and that solves your life. The film kind of says the opposite.''

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50 Cent and director Jim Sheridan on the set
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 6, 2005
Words:482
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