Fifteen years after Eminem starred in 8 Mile, the former battler-turned-global superstar is producing Bodied, a Joseph Kahn-directed film that was written by another celebrated battle MC — Alex “Kid Twist” Larsen.


The movie, which explores free speech through the a capella battle rap scene, just premiered to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival in Larsen’s hometown and is now being shopped around for distribution, promising a soundtrack with new material from Em and Dr. Dre.


This is all quite momentous for a kid who grew up idolizing Slim Shady while dreaming of being a writer. “It’s really intense for me,” Larsen tells Billboard. “I’ve always viewed battling as a hobby. When I started, it wasn’t a viable career. Being a writer is what I always wanted to do career wise, so it’s incredibly gratifying to start that career with a movie about battle rap directed by Joseph Kahn, produced by Eminem. On top of that, to have it be — so far — a huge success? I could not have asked for a better beginning to the career I’ve been aiming at my whole life.”


Larsen spoke with Billboard about the movie’s journey, how it was partly inspired by Taylor Swift backlash and why they tackled political correctness through hip-hop. He also talked about the cast, which ranges from former Disney Channel actor Calum Worthy to battle rap all-stars like Dumbfoundead, Dizaster, and Hollow Da Don. Plus, he revealed how Eminem got involved with the film even before anyone knew he’d signed on as a producer.


– How did Eminem get involved with the film and what did it mean for you when his involvement was confirmed?

– This is another area where I have to give Joseph a ton of credit. In addition to being a visionary filmmaker, he’s also a master marketer. He really knows how to play behind the scenes. I don’t think anyone who was working on the movie found out about Eminem’s involvement officially until not that long ago, when he officially came on board as a producer, but now, in retrospect, I do think that because there’s that relationship there — Joseph has done a lot of videos for Eminem in the past — I think that, in retrospect, Joseph had been showing Eminem some drafts of the script and getting feedback because there were certain notes that I got where I was like, “This doesn’t feel like it’s coming from Joseph Kahn.” Looking back, I think, probably, these notes were coming from Eminem. A lot of white guys won’t admit this, but I’m not afraid to. Eminem is the reason I rap. He was the first rapper I ever listened to. One hundred percent, he was the guy that got me into rap music so in more ways than one, I would not be a rapper and I would not be in this position, if it were not for Eminem. So obviously, it means more than I can say. To have his seal of approval is absolutely incredible. I know that he’s a fan of the film, so that in itself makes it so it really doesn’t matter what any critic or anyone else thinks. The reaction has been hugely positive so far, which is fantastic, but even if it wasn’t, Eminem likes it, so I don’t care.


– We’ve heard that Eminem and Dr. Dre will contribute new songs to the film’s soundtrack. Following the premiere, how much of the film will change before it’s released and are you actually planning on including original material from Em and Dre?

– Yeah, one hundred percent. So, the soundtrack that people heard at the premiere is all going to change. There’s going to be at least a few new songs from them, which is going to be incredible. Eminem’s stamp of approval is beyond anything I could have expected but having original music from him is even beyond that, so I’m hyped to hear new Eminem tracks. In terms of changes, apart from that, we’ll probably be doing a little bit of editing, some work on the sound mix, that kind of thing, but I feel justified and not entirely narcissistic in saying this, now that we’ve got such a positive response, but it truly is a great movie so I think what we have there is already fantastic. We’re not going to mess with it too much.


Read the full interview on Billboard.