Ludacris revved up for action in the capital
Speaking backstage before his recent Corniche performance as part of Beats on the Beach, the 36-year-old American rapper and actor says he is impressed with the country's energy.
"I just took a peek at the crowd back there and it's just live," he says.
"This is the second time I am in the UAE and my first time in Abu Dhabi. For me, the chance to go visiting new places and sample new cultures is what gives me the most joy as an artist."
Ludacris may have spent only two days here during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend, but he is set to return for more racing action as part of the cast of Fast & Furious 7. The actors Vin Diesel and Paul Walker will also fly into Abu Dhabi in January to film at landmark sites. Twofour54 intaj is the action drama's UAE producer.
The popular action-film franchise will hit the capital for two weeks of shooting, following sessions in Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Joining Ludacris for the ride are the film's marquee stars, including Diesel, Walker and Tyrese.
"It's going to be fun, man," Ludacris says.
"Whenever we are filming we just have a great time and I am looking forward to returning with the guys and getting up to all kinds of things here."
Fast & Furious 7 - scheduled to be released on August 7 next year - was announced earlier this year on the back of the success of its sixth venture. With the news came the speculation on who would play the film's villain (now assigned to the British tough guy Jason Statham) and which glamorous city will follow the likes of Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City and Tokyo in hosting the key scenes.
The original plan was to shoot in Egypt, but given the country's political turmoil, location scouts were sent to the UAE for alternatives.
It was a combination of Abu Dhabi's varied landscapes and the 30 per cent government rebate scheme (launched last September) that ultimately convinced producers.
While the films' popularity - they have more than US$2 billion (Dh7.3b) in box-office receipts - does lend itself to showcase featured cities, Ludacris says each film does attempt to incorporate local flavours into the script and Abu Dhabi is no different.
"You guys are known for great cars, wealth and money," he says.
"There is going to be a lot of action and we are going to do it on the Abu Dhabi stage, so we will hopefully show a lot of the culture in the film as well."
Ludacris states that one local and regional element definitely appearing in the forthcoming film is the car manoeuvre called drifting - the highly dangerous practice refers to a car skidding and sliding, seemingly out of control, due to a combination of high speed and rapid gear changes.
A self-declared fan of the move, Ludacris has seen its appeal reached stateside.
"I think it's great, man," he says and laughs.
"A lot of people are trying to emulate that right now back in America. You guys set a lot of standards and trends and we are just coming back here to pay our respects."
Playing the character of the car guru Tej Parker, Ludacris joined the franchise in the first sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious in 2003 before returning in 2011 with Fast Five and staying on for this year's Fast & Furious 6.
Ludacris says the success of the franchise - seven films deep (counting the forthcoming release) and with no sign of halting - is down to its full-throttled mission to entertain.
"That's really what it's about," he says. "We want to make films that people would want to see again and again."
Ludacris admits that a tight bond has developed between the characters and the fans. "I am glad the fans are saying the films are like catching up with old friends, because at this stage, it should be," he says. "People should feel like they are now part of the movie, or at least identify with the characters in it."
The films' success has caught Ludacris by surprise and it has also meant that his music career has taken a back seat in favour of the more lucrative film appearances.
However, the rapper responsible for the hits Standup, Money Maker and Runaway Love intends to return to the studio as soon the film is wrapped up.
"It's a tough balancing act and I haven't been able to put music out for a while," he admits. "I been trying to give the fans a bit of music between the movies but once this movie is over, we are definitely, like 100 per cent, coming with the album."
Published: November 9, 2013 04:00 AM