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F. Gary Gray has directed music videos for a lot of legends over the years -- including Ice Cube, Stevie Wonder, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, Queen Latifah, OutKast and Dr. Dre -- while also shooting big stars for the big screen. From "Friday," the 1995 stoner comedy (starring Ice Cube and Chris Tucker) he helmed at age 24, to a string of big-budget thrillers including "The Negotiator" (Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey) and "The Italian Job" (Charlize Theron, Mark Wahlberg), he's proved to be a master storyteller with spot-on audience-pleasing instincts.
But with "Straight Outta Compton," released in August, his career shifted into overdrive. The critically acclaimed biopic about iconic rap group N.W.A. so far has grossed more than $200 million worldwide. It was a passion project (he grew up in L.A. as N.W.A. was exploding) that became a cultural phenomenon. "To be able to tell the story of N.W.A. and their lives -- their rise, their fall, and then their rise again -- it's the film of a lifetime for me," he told Vice.