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"8 Mile" alumni bring it home for XV anniversary

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

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DETROIT -- Omar Benson Miller recalled that Detroit was a very different place when he was here making the movie “8 Mile” back in 2001.

“That was a big change for a kid from L.A. to come out here and see how people were living in Detroit,” Miller, now 39, who played Sol George in Eminem’s posse in the film, said Wednesday night, Nov. 8, before a 15-year anniversary screening for the hit film. “The one thing that’s beautiful is walking around Detroit today. It’s a whole new city. At the time (of the filming) it was like a bomb had just been let off.

“So to see where it is now ... it’s a full-circle moment. It’s fantastic.”

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Miller, who’s currently seen on HBO’s “Ballers,” was one of the celebrities to turn out for screening at the Bel Air Luxury Cinema on Eight Mile Road. He was joined by fellow cast members miz korona and radio personality Bushman. Eminem himself -- in the midst of rehearsals for a performance at the MTV European Music Awards on Sunday, Nov. 12, in London -- did not attend, but his longtime collaborator Denaun Porter was there, along with other rappers (T3 of Slum Village), Donte “Polo Frost” Grantham, MidWest Rico Lavelle), Cristen Metoyer of VH1’s “Basketball Wives” and a variety of football players, including former Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola. A fundraiser for the Community Music School’s Verses Project, a beneficiary of Eminem’s Marshall Mathers Foundation, “8 Mile” played in nine of the Bel Air’s 10 theaters and will continue to be shown each Wednesday in November.

Fans -- some of whom traveled from Ohio and Ontario for the event -- also bought special commemorative packages of popcorn and soda, with proceeds going to the Verses Project.

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“8 Mile,” which opened nationwide on Nov. 8, 2002 and was filmed primarily in metro Detroit, was directed by the late Curtis Hanson and also starred Kim Bassinger, Mekhi Phifer and the late Brittan Murphy. The film grossed more than $250 million in theaters worldwide, and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.

“I thought more of the (cast) guys were gonna be here, but I’m glad I was able to make it,” Miller noted. “Ever since I made this film here, Michigan has become like my second or third home state. People to this day come up to me more about (‘8 Mile’) than any other film I’ve done. So it’s great. It’s easy for me to get back, hop on a plane. That’s why I’m here.”

Porter, who continues to work with Eminem -- including rapper’s new album, which he’s expect to announce during the EMAs -- said that “it’s still weird to watch” “8 Mile” and see events he lived through dramatized in the film. “It’s kind of like watching your life on the screen,” he explained. “But I think it means a lot to be able to tell the story like that. There’s not a move like it. It fit. It worked It wasn’t done in a corny way. It wasn’t done in a way that was forced. It’s a true story in a sense -- the names were changed but it’s a true story.”

miz korona, who made a brief cameo rapping in the film, said before the screening that even when it was being filmed “I had a feeling it was going to be a big deal ... but I definitely didn’t imagine the movie was gonna be like this. Everyone loves Eminem, but now they have a newfound love for Detroit.” Fellow rapper T3 also felt that despite Detroit’s hardships “8 Mile” “showed Detroit in proper light that nobody had ever seen before. I was so happy it showcased Detroit in a different light than Detroit is (usually) shown.” A veteran of the scene and the rap battles depicted in the film, T3 dubbed it accurate in capturing both the music and the lifestyle of the times.

“It definitely depicted how the underground scene was at the time,” he said, “and it showcased the factories that we worked in. That what it was, factories and the Hip Hop Shop. So, yeah, I think it’s accurate, and it’s a classic 15 years later. We still talk about it.”

The “8 Mile” XV celebration continues Wednesday, Nov. 9, with an party and freestyle rap battle -- including a performance by miz korona -- at Saint Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress St., Detroit. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $50 VIP. Call 313-961-8961 or visit saintandrewsdetroit.com.

Web Site: www.saintandrewsdetroit.com

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