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Nelly's first movie role was 'cool'

Rapper says sports experience helped him in 'Longest Yard'

Published: Tuesday, May 31 2005 12:00 a.m. MDT

Nelly as a running back, left, and Adam Sandler as quarterback in a scene from "The Longest Yard."

Tracy Bennett, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Nelly is used to making hits. Getting hit was another story.

The superstar rapper is making his movie debut in "The Longest Yard" as the running back for a prison football squad that takes on a team of guards. Adam Sandler plays the quarterback and Burt Reynolds — who starred in the 1974 original — plays the prison team's coach.

Nelly spoke to The Associated Press about doing his own stunts, doing prison time and why rappers make good actors:

AP: You've filmed dozens of videos, but this is your major motion picture debut. How was it?

Nelly: It was cool. I don't want to say easy, because it wasn't easy. It was natural for me because I could relate to the role so easily, as far as me playing football and hanging out with the guys. My experiences growing up playing football helped. I played in the junior football league and junior high school ball in St. Louis. It wasn't anything I had to take too many acting classes for. I didn't have to cry on film or anything like that.

AP: Ever spend any time in prison?

Nelly: Not to that extent. Not prison time. I have spent a few days here and there growing up.

AP: Your character wore No. 23 on his jersey. Any specific reason you chose that number?

Nelly: Michael Jordan. Come on! I wanted to get No. 1 but they already had that slated for someone else. So I had to go with 23. MJ is the best athlete to ever live.

AP: I know you were drafted to play baseball out of high school, but you play a few other sports. What's your best sport?

Nelly: Contrary to what everyone says I think my best sport is football. But I was built better for baseball. I'm not very big. . . . I'm about 5-foot-9, 175 pounds. I used to be about 5-7, 150 pounds. So baseball was good because I could run, I could hit, I could catch. But my elusiveness made me a good football player. I would have to say basketball is my worst sport.

AP: You've played in a lot of celebrity games. Did that help you prepare for this role?

Nelly: Of course. I caught a touchdown pass from Warren Moon. Intercepted Dan Marino. Caught a pass on Deion (Sanders), that was when Deion was young. That's enough for one day: touchdown from Moon, intercept Marino, and catch a pass on the best corner to ever play the game. This was in the MTV Rock 'n' Jock game. Let me know if you didn't see it. I can send you the tape.

AP: Had you ever seen the original movie before you were contacted for this role?

Nelly: A long time ago. Then I had to watch it again to get more familiar with it. But Burt Reynolds did his thing back then. You know, I used to watch "Smokey and the Bandit" and all that.

AP: Who was a better quarterback, Adam Sandler or Burt Reynolds?

Nelly: Oh man, you can't ask me that. Well, Adam was probably was the better quarterback but Burt looked cooler doing it. Burt was slick back in the day. Adam is a comedian. Burt was always a ladies' man.

AP: How was it working with Adam Sandler?

Nelly: He's funny, real funny. He's a great guy to. I consider him a real good friend now. Not a Hollywood friend, a real friend. You know, you got those guys who you call and check up on and see if there's ever anything you can do to help. He's one of those friends. He already made a cameo in my new video. I had him right, driving the old Lincoln Continental with some rims.

AP: What was your favorite scene to film in the movie?

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