Former American Idol contestant Jennifer Hudson beat out 782 other hopefuls to make her film debut as Effie White in Dreamgirls—and according to Oprah, it isn't just a breakthrough, she crashes through the wall! "I think it's a religious experience listening to her sing," Oprah says. "She makes the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up."
Jennifer says that all the attention she's receiving feels like a blessing. "It's God's favor," she says. After auditioning three times in six months, Jennifer felt the decision was in the hands of a higher power. "I ended up on the church steps across the street from my house and I said, 'Lord, here I am. If it's meant for me, it's for me. Whatever your will is, that's what's best for me, and that's what I want,'" she says. "Two weeks later, they called me saying, 'Congratulations, Jennifer Hudson, you're Effie White.'"
On the set of Dreamgirls, Jennifer found herself working with two of her idols, Jamie and Beyoncé, but she says she didn't find their star power intimidating. "I was so focused, and I wanted it so badly that I really didn't think about it," she says. "I just went through the motions and I felt God was with me, so I was just like, 'Look, I'm here.'"
Doing a love scene with Jamie was a different story. "I was so nervous the first time I had to kiss Jamie," Jennifer says. "You don't even get a chance to say 'Good morning,'" Jennifer says. "He walks in [to do the scene]."
"That's the best way to say 'Good morning,'" jokes Jamie.
As a finalist on American Idol, Jennifer took some heat from judge Simon Cowell, including a comment that she was out of her depth in the competition. Now, Simon's got some making up to do!
"We have our history together, don't we, Jennifer?" Simon says. "Now I feel my criticism has probably had a significant part in your career, because the buzz on you is huge. I heard your [version] of 'And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going' today, and I would like to be the first to eat a massive dose of humble pie. Because there are good performances and occasionally there are extraordinary performances. That was extraordinary, Jennifer, and I feel very proud for you. I feel we had a very small part in what's happened in your life, and please thank me when you get your Oscar®."
Rounding out the Dreams singing trio is Tony® award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose, who plays Lorrell Robinson. According to Anika, filming the movie's signature song, "Dreamgirls," was absolute torture.
"The shoes were absolutely killing me," she says. "I'm 5'2". Miss Jennifer is 5'9." Beyoncé is 5'6." So in order for me to be seen in the picture with the two of them ... I had on some heels that were at least 4 inches, and in the finale, 5 inches. I was ready to cut my feet off and give them away!"
In Dreamgirls, Eddie Murphy plays James "Thunder" Early, a character who's part James Brown, part Little Richard, and all Eddie Murphy. As a fan of the musical, he was excited to be cast in the film. "I'm much older than the rest of the cast," he says. "I saw the original play on Broadway 25 years ago and I loved [it]. I was blown away when they asked me to be in it."
Like the rest of the cast, Eddie does all his own singing in the film, but even he admits that the pop albums he put out in the '80s weren't a good example of what he could do. "I don't know if 'Party All the Time' gave you any [idea] of what was coming—that this was coming 20 years later," he jokes.
Jamie saysJamie says Eddie was able to transform in and out of character in a split second—a trait Jamie admired. According to Eddie, the drama playing out in his real life contributed to the transformation. "I don't want to make it seem like I was Joe Actor," he says. "I was going through a big divorce then." Ultimately, he says, acting in the movie helped him deal with the end of his marriage. "It was really good because I had all that going on...[but filming] would take me to a different place emotionally."
Beyoncé performs the song Listen.
"This is the moment where Deena finally finds her voice," she explains. "The whole movie she's been manipulated and she's kind of lost her own opinions. I think a lot of women can relate to the lyrics."
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