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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Beyoncé plays Etta James

Beyoncé plays Etta James


Filming commenced this month, the first images are out, and here's the proof; Beyoncé really is playing Etta James in the upcoming Cadillac Records. This film is not a biopic of James (though that's not a bad idea), but a chronicle of the fortunes of Chicago record label Chess Records and its musicians. The cast includes Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess and Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters.

So here's a look at Beyoncé and the original.
Beyoncé plays Etta James

And here's the first image off the set.
Beyonce etta james

Even though this is not a biopic, the casting, you can imagine, is a topic for fairly ugly debate (even NPR had a blogger roundtable partially devoted to it). I do wonder about the wisdom of the role as a career move, at least for the negative press it's generating, including the inevitable references to the supposed Beyoncé/Jennifer Hudson rivalry following Hudson's Oscar win for Dreamgirls. And much (annoying) speculation about whether Beyoncé will be gaining weight or wearing prosthetics to look more like James. Can I take this moment to say that the young Etta James was no Twiggy, but she was certainly not fat?

Beyonce plays Etta James

She was, however, a complex person who, shall we say, tried a lot of things in her life. Or, as PageSix reports, she said of herself: “"Oh my god, she [Beyoncé] is going to have a hill to climb, because Etta James ain't been no angel!" Beyoncé doesn't quite fit that mold, Etta explained:

"I wasn't as bourgie as she is, she's bourgeois. She knows how to be a lady, she's like a model. I wasn't like that ... I smoked in the bathroom in school, I was kinda arrogant, so those are some of the things I would want to tell her."

No word (that I could find) about how/if the movie will treat James' addiction to heroin. Or if the movie will touch on her rumored affairs with women. But the possibility of such scenes is what really has people questioning the casting. Well, that and the idea that Beyonce might perform that little number “At Last.” Here's a nifty version with a slide show of vintage pictures of James across a few decades:

Beyonce Etta James

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Filming commenced this month, the first images are out, and here's the proof; Beyoncé really is playing Etta James in the upcoming Cadillac Records. This film is not a biopic of James (though that's not a bad idea), but a chronicle of the fortunes of Chicago record label Chess Records and its musicians. The cast includes Adrien Brody as Leonard Chess and Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters.

So here's a look at Beyoncé and the original.

And here's the first image off the set.

Even though this is not a biopic, the casting, you can imagine, is a topic for fairly ugly debate (even NPR had a blogger roundtable partially devoted to it). I do wonder about the wisdom of the role as a career move, at least for the negative press it's generating, including the inevitable references to the supposed Beyoncé/Jennifer Hudson rivalry following Hudson's Oscar win for Dreamgirls. And much (annoying) speculation about whether Beyoncé will be gaining weight or wearing prosthetics to look more like James. Can I take this moment to say that the young Etta James was no Twiggy, but she was certainly not fat?

She was, however, a complex person who, shall we say, tried a lot of things in her life. Or, as PageSix reports, she said of herself: “"Oh my god, she [Beyoncé] is going to have a hill to climb, because Etta James ain't been no angel!" Beyoncé doesn't quite fit that mold, Etta explained:

"I wasn't as bourgie as she is, she's bourgeois. She knows how to be a lady, she's like a model. I wasn't like that ... I smoked in the bathroom in school, I was kinda arrogant, so those are some of the things I would want to tell her."

No word (that I could find) about how/if the movie will treat James' addiction to heroin. Or if the movie will touch on her rumored affairs with women. But the possibility of such scenes is what really has people questioning the casting. Well, that and the idea that Beyonce might perform that little number “At Last.” Here's a nifty version with a slide show of vintage pictures of James across a few decades:


I'm withholding judgment on the casting for the moment. While I can think of singers who remind me more of James, and I personally wish the role had gone to one of the many talented African-American actresses (not singers) in Hollywood who never have enough roles anyway, I didn't think Beyoncé sucked in Dreamgirls. (I may be in the minority on that.) And if it's true that James may have a little hand in coaching Beyoncé on the vocals, well. The chance to work with Etta herself? You can't blame her for wanting the role.