By Chris Michaud
NEW YORK (Reuters) - In his latest film, "Top Five," comedian Chris Rock takes the reins as a triple-threat director, writer and star, but once he assembled a cast of comic talent Rock said he was happy to just let them do what they do best.
"The way I look at it is, it's my movie, but it's your part," said Rock, referring to comic heavyweights Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Tracy Morgan and JB Smoove.
They provide the edgy, satirical film, which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, with much of its controlled comic chaos. Other comedians turn up in small bits playing themselves.
"I wanted everybody to shine. That's what they're there for, that's why they're stars," said Rock. "I've done movies where I was too much in love with my own words."
In "Top Five," Rock plays troubled comic Andre Allen, who yearns to be taken seriously. Several years into recovery, he has forged a career with a series of "Hammy the Bear" movies -- in which he wears a bear suit.
While promoting his foray into "serious cinema," an absurdly earnest tale of a Haitian slave uprising entitled "Uprize!", Allen is trailed by a journalist played by Rosario Dawson for a profile piece.
Unlike his cast of comic heavyweights, Rock recalled having "to beg her to be in the movie. I couldn't even get a meeting -- with my friend."
"Oh come on, that's not true," Dawson laughed, explaining that she had just come off of seven or eight films back-to-back, and was feeling burnt out.
But she said it was a remarkable experience. Shot in New York City, "Top Five" takes place in the course of a single day.
While some might say he is playing a variation on himself, Rock, 49, said the character is drawn from legendary black comics ranging from Eddie Murphy and Chris Tucker to Martin Lawrence and Jamie Foxx.
And, as with his standup, he drew from real life.
"It is just a movie," Rock said, repeating a line from the film.
"But -- people that think are always going to make things that make you think," he added. "When you go into something saying 'I got something to say!', it always sucks. I learned that in standup, just tell the joke. You're smart, and at the end of this people will take something smart out of it."
(Editing by Patricia Reaney and Alan Crosby)