Interview: Lenny Kravitz
Lenny's on fire: Will Lawrence meets rocker turned actor Lenny Kravitz ahead of two major movie releases
Lenny Kravitz is a self-confessed lucky fellow. The award-winning rocker turned aspiring movie star has featured in three major films, two of which, The Hunger Games and The Butler, opened in the No1 slot at US cinemas. Chances are that his next outing, the second chapter of The Hunger Games series, Catching Fire, will also top the box office.
"I think I have just been very fortunate," says 49-year-old Kravitz. "Catching Fire will be No1 at the box office – that is a fairly safe assumption – and that would mean three out of the four films I have done have been No1, which is okay."
People have certainly appreciated Kravitz's musical output, ever since his debut album, Let Love Rule. From 1999 to 2002 he won four consecutive Grammy Awards, setting a record for most wins in the Best Male Rock Vocal Performance category.
In 2004 he received his sixth Grammy nomination in the category for his sixth album, Lenny.
His move into film, he says, acts as something of an antidote to the solitary pressures of his musical activity.
"It takes me away from myself," he says of his acting career. "It takes me away from the 100pc control that I have in my music.
"It is a nice relief to drop everything else and just become someone else and follow someone else's direction."
His bid to find balance got a major boost from filmmaker and friend Lee Daniels, who cast Kravitz in the seemingly unlikely role of a nurse in his 2009 drama Precious, which soaked up the critical plaudits with six Oscar nominations and two wins.
Daniels has also cast the rocker in his latest film, The Butler, which has already served up $140m at the worldwide box office, nudging its leading man, Forest Whitaker, towards another bid at Oscar glory.
Whitaker's character, Cecil Gaines, is inspired by the real-life Eugene Allen, who worked at the White House for 34 years. "Cecil goes from the cotton fields to working for eight different administrations at the White House," says Kravitz. "It is some story."
Featuring alongside such heavyweights as Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Cuba Gooding Jnr and John Cusack, Kravitz takes a supporting role as one of Gaines' fellow butlers.
"I was very familiar with that character from my grandfather and uncles who went through these things," he says.
Did that make the film feel more personal? "Yeah. On my first day I walked on to the set and I felt like I was in my uncle's house when I was a kid in Brooklyn. Everything that was in the house was familiar. This is a story of a family, separation, the civil rights movement – you get so much in one film."
Audiences will get a very different view of Kravitz later this month when he appears in Catching Fire, the second instalment of The Hunger Games.
The films are based on Suzanne Collins' best-selling novels in which heroine Katniss Everdeen lives in a future dystopia in which a tyrannical government has teens battling to the death for the broadcast pleasure of its elite citizens.
The first film in the franchise, released in 2012, transformed lead actress Jennifer Lawrence into Oscar-winning box-office dynamite. Kravitz knows Lawrence well, as she is a close friend of Zoe Kravitz, his daughter from a now defunct relationship with The Cosby Show's Lisa Bonet.
In The Hunger Games, Kravitz plays the heroine's creative stylist and mentor, Cinna, who oversees her costume before she enters the gladiatorial arena.
"Cinna definitely continues on his journey to be himself and to support Katniss in this film," he says. "There is a scene where he makes a certain garment for Katniss, and what that garment represents is something that will make the president very unhappy.
"I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't read the books, but a revolution sparks and it has a very dramatic outcome, let's put it that way."