F. Gary Gray, director of the breakout box office and critical hit Straight Outta Comptoncame straight to our big awards-season event The Contenders Presented By Deadline on November 7. He participated in Universal’s portion of the day, where he explained how the film, long in development, came to be, why it was so personal to him, and how it was cast.

As he says in the video shot at Contenders (click the link above to watch), the question of who would be playing the members of N.W.A was a big one. It could have been especially tricky since Ice Cube’s own son, O’Shea Jackson Jr, wasthe contenders event sold out in the running to play the young Ice Cube. Gray says this movie meant too much to him to risk on an untried actor, even if it was Cube’s son and even if he was the spitting image of his father.

It turned out Jackson auditioned for the part for two solid years and proved in the end he was absolutely the right choice. Now Straight Outta Compton has become a top contender this season and may also well turn out to be the highest-grossing of all the Best Picture contenders. Not bad at all for this passion project that became one of the year’s biggest movie success stories.