What Ever Happened To Tyrin Turner From Menace II Society?
Everything peaked for Tyrin Turner at the 9th Annual Independent Spirit Awards. Turner was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in Menace II Society, a chill ran down Tyrin Turner’s spine as his name was announced alongside the likes of Jeff Bridges, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Matthew Modine. Turner didn’t win the Spirit Award, but Roger Ebert pulled him aside that night and told him he should have been up for an Oscar. He belonged at “the Big Show,” Ebert said. Turner mesmerized in Menace as Caine, a crack dealer, killer, aspiring father figure and a confused teen. Turner’s quizzical expression conveyed all the awe and bewilderment of a teenager enraptured by South-Central gang life. His warm smile made him a heart-throb, and yet he burns with violence throughout the film.
Turner was in a rare and coveted position, by the time he was 22 years old, he’d starred in one of the most iconic films of the decade, befriended rising filmmakers, and been feted with nominations and acclaim. Janet Jackson even told him he had “some of the sexiest lips [she] ever saw.” Then, he disappeared from view.
In 2009, I asked Allen Hughes, the co-director of Menace II Society, about Tyrin Turner.
“Tyrin Turner is like a street legend,” he said. “He’s like a ghetto celebrity, a ghetto rock star. He’s an enigma.”
Twenty years later, 41-year-old Tyrin Turner is wandering around a creaky house in Brooklyn’s Ditmas Park neighborhood clutching a pair of prosthetic legs. He’s filming an untitled short film directed by his best friend, Jamie Foxx, for Canon’s Project Imagination campaign. He’s playing a mad scientist and he could not be happier about it. It’s unlike anything he’s done before, especially Menace’s Caine, the part that launched and in many ways cursed his career. Caine still consumes him.
Turner wears black, thick-framed glasses and sagging khaki pants. Shirtless for much of the film, he is short and compact, with the sculpted physique of a welterweight fighter. His face is youthful and his head full of hair, though it has begun to recede an inch or two. Once shooting begins, Turner steps through machine-churned fog.
“Get more heroic, T!” Foxx instructs from behind the camera.
Turner then raises the prosthetic limbs, presenting them to his bride, played by the actress Nichole Galicia.
“Cut!” Foxx shouts. “This nigga’s a superhero.”
Foxx is confident Turner’s second chance is coming. “I think Tyrin is blessed with a certain quality,” he tells me later. “When you see him on film, you are automatically drawn to him.”
During downtime on set, Turner wanders off, clutching his iPhone, while Foxx, friends, and Indiana Pacers forward David West — in town for a playoff game — gather on the stoop and swap NBA gossip.2 The towering elm trees thwart the late-afternoon sun, and from here the house looks like Michael Myers’s home from Halloween.
Later, Foxx tells West about a recent night at a New York nightclub. Foxx watched as Leonardo DiCaprio approached Turner and spent the next hour quoting Menace II Society back to him. Foxx also recalls a recent encounter with A$AP Rocky and his sister backstage at a Rihanna concert. The rapper posted a photo to Instagram; his sister was starstruck, though not for the movie star. Rocky’s sister was unimpressed with Foxx. Then she spotted Turner. “Oh my god! Caine! Caine!” she squealed.
Then Foxx turns serious and looks down at the lawn. “I’m telling him to get back out there,” he says. Turner is off somewhere, still fiddling with his phone.
Vic Da Ruler
The GRID 10