‘Cadillac’ Actors Dig Deep to Rock Their Roles

One of the most highly anticipated films of the season opens this Friday when Cadillac Records bows in theaters, boasting both an all-star cast and soundtrack. The film premiered this week in New York and Los Angeles, with many of the cast members showing up to support what some would call (including me) a much better Dreamgirls. The common denominator for both projects, of course, is Beyoncé, who portrays R&B legend Etta James in Cadillac. Now, while Mrs. Carter didn't exactly nail the role of the embattled songstress, I do applaud her attempt (See, I was nice). The standouts in the film were everyone's favorite character actor, Jeffrey Wright, who portrayed bluesman Muddy Waters and does his own singing, and Mos Def (who, ironically played opposite Wright in Broadway's Top Dog/Underdog in 2002 to critical acclaim) as rock and roll legend Chuck Berry. Aside from their undeniable talent (yes, even Bey) that radiates on screen, it's the level of hard work and research invested by the stars, including Bey checking into rehab to research her role, Mos Def hitting the books (and laptop), and Wright, who does his own singing in the film, keeping the music really real.

  • Beyoncé spent a lot of time last year talking to recovering addicts at Brooklyn, NY's Phoenix House to research her role as James. In the film, she has a scene where she supposedly overdoses on "smack." Says the actress about Ms. James' reaction to her performance: "...I know that in some interviews she was like, 'I don't know if she
    can play me.' But when I met her, she said, 'You are a bad girl,' and I
    know that's the ultimate compliment from her." [SI/TS]

  • Mos Def actually used two resources in order to capture the talents and mannerisms of Berry: the legend's self-titled autobiography...and YouTube. He spoke of how the autobiography was helpful, as it gave him an idea of how Berry spoke. The YouTube clips gave him the mannerisms and, of course the music. Says Def: "I think the lyrical aspect that
    touched Mr. Berry's work is very unique and very distinctive; it's
    something that really sets him apart from the generation of performers
    that he came up in and sets him apart in general."

  • Jeffrey Wright admitted to being uncertain when first approached to play Waters before being convinced by musician and good friend Steve Jordan, who scored the film. Said the actor: "For me, the insight into the character and into the story was the
    music. I've always been a fan of the blues...As
    an actor, I've always had an ear for language and so the language of
    the blues always spoke to me. At the same time I deeply respect its
    authenticity. It was the music that pulled me into committing to the
    film." He went on to talk about how it was laying down his own vocals: "Singing for me is work. I would be in the studio until 5am just to make
    sure I got the tone and note right. The sound had to be real. I really
    worked hard to honor the legacy of his music." [BV]

The film opens nationwide this Friday and also features performances by Columbus Short and Cedric The Entertainer. Tell us, is this one of the films you've marked on your calendars? And if so, whose performance are you most eager to see?

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18 Responses

  1. Damn, I'm not a Beyonce stan but why are all the blogs (Including yours!) always hating on her, I mean how do you know she didn't nail it? you didn't even know etta james! you claim to be a fan of good music but you seem to have a problem with artist who make both great & successful music, I agree I long for some of that good ol' soul sometimes but hey MARVIN GONE!, BARRY ONE! & LUTHER GONE! so give these guys a chance to become legends in there own right! That's probably why some artist make crappy albums, CAUSE THEY TRYING TO PLEASE THE BLOGGERS! YOU SEE WHAT YOU'VE DONE BLOGGERS, AMERICA & PAPARAZZI YOU GOT PEOPLE SCARED TO BE THEMSELVES RIP TO Marvin, Barry & Luther may you continue to be a inspiration!

  2. Not that I'm hatin' on Beyonce, but I would take her more seriously as an actress if she'd portray someone other than a singer. I mean damn, that ain't really a stretch.

  3. Um, Deray. I saw the film this past Monday. In my opinion, she didn't nail it. She just wasn't believable (in. my. opinion) as a drug-addled starlet. Sorry. Color me bad if you wanna, but in. my. opinion... it just wasn't a great performance.
    And to be clear, I actually LIKE Bey's music. It's her ACTING that leaves much to be desired. Just like Diana Ross' did before Lady Sings the Blues. There's a difference between hating and simply stating MY opinion. Sorta like you did yours.
    So, there ya go. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, though. Please come back after you actually see the film and give us a review of Bey's performance. I look forward to it.

  4. Sounds like Deray has been sippin' on that Kanye kool-aid.

  5. Saying "I'm not a Beyonce stan but" is like saying "I'm not a racist, but."
    See, the "but" pretty much negates the whole "I'm not" portion of the statement.
    Also, anyone that has that many grievances with one website and continues to visit isn't really doing themselves a favor.
    Harlem: 1; Deranged: 0.

  6. I agree with Soulrific on both posts. =]
    I will say I am interested to see everyone's performance in this film. There is a lot of talent among the cast.

  7. @Deray:
    "And Beyonce Knowles doesn't seem to have splurged on acting lessons since her wooden turn in "Dreamgirls." From the second she enters the film as the tempestuous James, you want to see her sing "At Last," then get out. No amount of wigs and padding can transform her.;_ylt=AlR1RjPRulwWKM73gxydwMM9FRkF
    "That starts with executive producer Beyonce Knowles, who performs dynamic versions of Etta James classics and delivers the dramatic goods as the troubled and badly addicted young woman who lives the blues she sings."!-327408692&&rid=11988&imw=Y
    Different opinions from different people.
    What are you smokin? So I guess all of the artists who put out good music are what? Self-thinkers, courageous, and talented...
    I very seriously doubt that any TRUE artist is unduly influenced by any media source to the point where they put out crappy music.
    Stop with the nonsense.

  8. I'm going to hold my tongue on Beyonce's acting in this feature, though what few clips I've seen....well...
    As for going to see the film? Hell, nawl. LOL But I will definitely rent it 🙂 And I'm most always eager to see Mos Def and Jeffrey Wright and I've read some good things about a couple of other actors.

  9. So in other words...............Oscar 2 - Beyonce 0.

  10. I heard Beyonce did not go to rehab she watch some videos, I saaw her say it on Tyra. . .Cant wait to see the movie though!

  11. I'll definitely go see this, mainly because Jeffrey Wright and to a slightly lesser extent, Mos Def always seem to deliver whenever they are in a film. Plus, it just looks like an interesting story. Hopefully, Beyonce can carry off her role...which I'm sure is possible.
    Either way, it was interesting reading about how the actors researched their roles.

  12. Its interesting to know that Etta originally wanted Faith Evans for the part, I think Beyonce is going to do her proud here, she's come a long way from her Austin Powers days lol...

  13. faith evans, huh? Wow, I think should would have been a great pick. I don't really know what her acting skills are like but she definitely would have pulled off the Etta look.
    I'm looking forward to seeing this. Not really for Beyonce, but for the story as a whole.

  14. I loveeee Mos Def

  15. Avatar

    Urbanfix, it's interesting you mentioned Etta James wanted Faith because I was talking about the movie with my dad last week and he also said she would've been really good..I'm not sure either about her true acting skills but if Bey can, then.........I can't lie, not even just the fact that Beyonce is a performer in real life, but I'm tired of variations of the same role, so I hope she did do a good job..That film where she plays Idris Elba's wife needs to come out, so we can see something different..BUT I'm really looking forward to seeing Mos Def and the film in general looks pretty good

  16. Saw the film last night. It was a great movie but Beyonce stunk! I don't know if it was because she was surrounded by real actors or what but I never once felt I was looking at Etta. I agree with Yahoo reviewer and my ex who commented " seems like Beyonce gets 'em to the theatre and the real actors get the acclaim". But, I would recommend the movie....

  17. 1st of all...
    This movie is grossly inaccurate. Little do you people know that the people who made "Cadillac Records" left out a plethora of information that you are not going to see in the film.
    Not only that, how many of you guys know that there is another movie based on Chess Records that is due out soon.
    Of course, I do have proof of this...just follow the links.

  18. @Miss concrete jungle, absolutely Faith Evans has been thrown around for a while now as far as an alternative choice to Beyonce goes. But lets face it Beyonce = ticket sales. Faith Evans was also a rumoured choice to play Beyonce's role in the 'Fighting Temptations' movie, but landed the role playing Cuba's mother instead.