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As you may have noticed in the trailers, David Cross has a strange part to play in writer/director Boots Riley's new movie, Sorry To Bother You. Rather than playing a character of his own, his role in the film is providing the "white voice" that is put on by Lakeith Stanfield's Cassius Green during telemarketing calls. It's an odd gig for the actor, but, what makes it even funnier is that he only signed on to the project because of random chance. Riley recently told me,
I had met David Cross in 2002 and got his email back then - I have no idea why. I wasn't doing any film or anything. But I was a fan of Mr. Show, and so I tried the email, and it worked. He was like, 'Yeah, you know, just send me a hard copy. I don't read that PDF shit.' But what I find out now is that he had no intention of actually reading it. It just so happened that he was out of town when the script came in, and his assistant was house sitting and read the script just because they were bored and had nothing to do. And then they told, when David got home, I guess, told him, 'You have to read this!'
Hollywood history is filled with funny stories about how actors practically magically fell into roles, and this is a fantastic example. I had the pleasure of hopping on the phone with Boots Riley in late June to talk about his work on Sorry To Bother You, and it was at the end of our interview that he told me this story. I asked how it was that he got the various "white voice" actors involved with the project early on, and he revealed that he essentially got very lucky when it came to signing David Cross, who didn't have authentic plans to read his script before it was recommended.
David Cross and Patton Oswalt -- who does the "white voice" for Omari Hardwick's Mr. _ (pronounced "Blank") -- wound up being the first two actors who signed on for the film, but the uniqueness of the whole situation didn't end there. Both Cross and Oswalt became involved without knowing which of the two key characters they would be playing -- and it wasn't until after Boots Riley started recording that he figured it out:
When it came down to actually recording the white voices, I didn't know which one would be which... They came and did their thing one after another, and I think Patton also didn't know which voice he'd be doing. So when he got there I was telling him like, 'Hey, I'm actually gonna have you do Mr. _, and not do Cassius.' And he was like, 'Oh really? Why?' He just was wondering why. And I said, 'Well, look: I need his voice to sound like the whitest voice that we know in the business. It turns out that David Cross sounds a little bit whiter.' He goes from feeling let down to being very proud, and being like, 'Yeah! He does have a whiter voice!'
At the end of the day, it's hard to argue with Boots Riley's choices, given that both David Cross and Patton Oswalt are great in the movie, and truly sound super white.
Sorry To Bother You, which stars Tessa Thompson, Steven Yeun, Danny Glover, Armie Hammer, Terry Crews and Jermaine Fowler in addition to Lakeith Stanfield and Omari Hardick, is hitting theaters in limited release this week, and will be going wide on July 13th. Be sure to be on the lookout for it (it's fantastic), and stay tuned here on CinemaBlend for more from my interview with Boots Riley.