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Movies: Terrence Howard

2 minute read
Richard Corliss

He exudes a charismatic musk as DJay, the pimp turned rapper in the indie film Hustle & Flow. Those soft eyes, the feline athleticism, a voice that can caress subtlety into any dialogue—viewers get a taste of that, and in a minute they say, “This guy’s a natural star.” And a second later: “Who is he?”

He is Terrence Howard, and in the past year, Hollywood has started to figure him out. His work as Dlay, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination, and as Cameron, the movie director on the receiving end of racism in Crash, has earned him offers to play, he says, “a million different villains” as well as every black luminary with a biopic in the works: Joe Louis, Thurgood Marshall, Rick James. Howard calls the attention “overwhelming. Because you know you haven’t done anything different. You start becoming real superstitious—you don’t know what it is, and you don’t know when it will go away.”

Howard, 36, hasn’t lacked for work. In 2005 he appeared in enough films, TV movies and direct-to-video dramas (seven!) to make Catherine Keener seem a slugabed. But as a kid, passed from mother to father to great-grandmother, he learned the hard way about salesmanship. He conned his way into a small part on The Cosby Show by inventing a résumé. An actor has to hustle himself to get into the flow. “It’s up to every performer to buy the stage,” he says. “And if you’ve got to pay the first audience to get in there, do it. Have a buffet for ’em. And the moment they get in there, you pour yourself out for them.”

Now that Hollywood is buying, the actor has leveraged his success by starting a production company and writing a script for a musical drama he would star in. “My stock just went up,” he says. “I can sell it right away and make a little profit, or I can hold on to it. I believe in this company, so I’m not trading in.”

The big guys should invest in Terrence Howard. We think he’s blue chip.

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