Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making Of “Dreamgirls”

October 15, 2012  |  

You know when it comes to seeing black faces in the [mainstream] arts, particularly on Broadway and on the big screen, opportunities are few and far between. And when we have a piece of work that is impeccably done, like the Broadway musical Dreamgirls, you don’t want to ruin the classic by making a terrible remake. Which is why it took a very long time to get Dreamgirls into the theaters. But it finally happened. See how it went down.

Close Casting Calls (The Ladies) 

Dreamgirls was a film that was literally decades in the making. After the immense success of the Broadway musical, everybody was vying to turn the theater production into a feature film. Naturally, they wanted big named starlets for the leading roles of Deena and Effie. In the ’80’s Jasmine Guy was in the running to play Deena. In the ’90’s, it was supposed to be Lauryn Hill and even Whitney Houston. When it came to Effie White, Kelly Price was considered, along with Disney star Raven Symone and Jennifer Hudson’s “American Idol” co-star, Fantasia. Though it would have been interesting to see Kelly in this role, Jennifer played Effie to a tee.

The Fellas

Now for the male roles. Curtis Taylor, who was played by Jamie Foxx, was offered to Black Hollywood’s brightest stars. Everyone from Denzel, to Will Smith, to Terrence Howard was offered the role. No word as to why Will or Terrence didn’t get it but Denzel wouldn’t take the part because he said he couldn’t sing. That’s one thing we can say about Denzel, you won’t see him looking crazy on screen because he knows when to say no. Initially, Jamie Foxx wasn’t even sold on the idea.

Remember Effie’s brother, CC White? That role was also offered to some interesting individuals including Usher, Omarion and Andre 3000. Usher couldn’t take the part because he couldn’t commit to the year it would take to film. I don’t think Usher or Omarion would have had the acting chops for this one but Andre could have pulled it off.


3. Why Not Whitney ?

Earlier, I mentioned that in one of the first times this movie went to production, Whitney was in the running to play Deena. Well, that didn’t go down because Whitney wanted to sing both Deena and Effie’s songs, especially the “And I Am Telling You,” one. When I discovered this little tidbit of information, I literally laughed out loud at Whitney trying to rearrange the whole script to showcase her vocal ability. Obviously, she had the vocal ability to do both but there is no way it would have made sense for Deena to sing that song and Whitney surely couldn’t have gained enough weight to convincingly portray Effie.

4. The Performer

Originally, writer and director Bill Condon wanted to cast “unknowns” in the roles of The Dreamettes but Beyonce wanted this role in the worst way. When she auditioned for the part she came in costume with choreographed dance steps. (Use what you’ve got to get what you want.) Beyonce would later say that the film was her first real acting gig. Wonder why she didn’t consider Carmen: A Hip Hopera to be the real deal? (I kid.)

5. What about Jamie?

Initially, Jamie Foxx was really not feeling being in this movie. He was approached several times and turned it down several times but when he found out that Beyonce and Eddie Murphy had been cast in the film he agreed to take the role of Curtis.

6. Money, Money, Money

The people behind the scenes went all the way out to make sure that this movie looked and felt good. To date, Dreamgirls is the most expensive film featuring an African American cast. The budget for the movie was $80 million. But it more than paid off. Not only was the movie critically acclaimed, being nominated for several awards, including six Academy Awards, it was also a commercial success grossing over $154 million at the box office.

7. Long time Coming

If the “Dreamgirls” musical came out in the early 1981, why did it take over two decades to get the film on screen? Here’s the short version of all the pitfalls along the way. Michael Bennett, who was the stage director for the musical passed away in 1987, leaving the rights to the production to co-financier David Geffen. Geffen was very protective of the work, not wanting anyone to work on the project and ruin Bennett’s vision.

In the ’90’s perhaps Geffen was ready to try. After the success of the musical biopic, What’s Love Got To Do With With It, screenwriter Tina Andrews and director Joel Schumacher were going to tackle the film adaptation. But shortly after What’s Love, Tina wrote and released Why Do Fools Fall in Love, which didn’t do so well in theaters. After that, the studios weren’t too sure about Andrews and decided to shelve the project again.

The show was finally greenlit sometime around 2002. Bill Condon, who had written the screenplay for Chicago, met producer Laurence Mark at a Hollywood party in 2002 and the two chatted about the project.  Eventually they met with David Geffen who convinced Bill Condon to write and direct the version we all know today.

7. Jennifer Hudson’s lip injection

There were some very real physical adjustments Jennifer Hudson had to make in order to play the role of Effie. Not only did she have to gain 20 pounds for the role, she also had to get lip injections for the dent in her top lip. Yeah, I know, sounds weird. But here’s how she explained it to E News!

“When I did Dreamgirls I actually had to get my dent right here injected because it was affecting the lighting,” she said, referring to her top lip. “And when I got it done the doctor was like ‘I do not want to do this do you realize people come in here and pay to have the lips you have naturally.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t want to but I have to for the movie!”

That’s a level of commitment, I don’t know if I could have had.

 

8. Anika’s Feet Hurt

Anika Noni Rose was the short one on set with her small 5’2 frame. She was so short she couldn’t be seen in the frame and therefore had to wear six inch heels when she was on stage singing or dancing with Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson. Anika later said that the heels were not pleasant.

 

9. Beyonce’s hungry

In order to look older when she played the more mature Deena in the film, Beyonce dropped 20 pounds. And she did so with a diet of lemon, water, maple syrup and cayenne pepper. Ugh! Sounds terrible.

10. And I Am Telling You

The scene where Effie sings “And I Am Telling You” was huge for the movie. It was so important that director Bill Condon purposely waited until the end of filming to shoot it. And it wasn’t a quick process. Jennifer could only sing for four hours at a time before losing her voice, and she couldn’t lip sync properly, so it ended up taking four days to complete. Condon even needed more money to finish the scene. But all of that hard work and extra money definitely paid off. Not only did Hudson win an Oscar for her performance but audiences were moved as well.  I don’t know where you were or who you were with when you first saw this scene; but I know when I first saw this film, in the theaters, people literally gasped and applauded after Jennifer Hudson sang this song. It was that powerful.

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  • Deirdre Oliver

    What’s up with a link to check out the secrets behind these movies you are posting. Don’t see any. You say check it out but every time I click on one it doesn’t show anything but what is under the picture………….

  • curlyBoo

    Whitney would have played a PERFECT Deena!!! Beyonce’s needs acting lessons-but she did SLAY listen!!!!

    • Teej

      Whitney would have SUNG a perfect Deena, but Whitney was not a good actress.. (I’m not saying Beyonce is a good actress either though…) I thought ‘Listen’, was oddly placed in the movie, and now I understand why… 🙂

  • LaBiss

    The best thing about this movie in my opinion is the staging; the special effects at the “reunion” scene were spectacular, and of course the singing and choreography. The exec producers/producer did a great job with what they brought to the table, esp. with J Hud.

  • jeighjoans

    I saw the original play in ’83 at the Paramount Theater in Oakland.. it was fantastic.. and I saw this movie in a crowded San Francisco Theater.. it was also fantastic.. the remarkable thing was that the movie had a live feeling just like a play. People were applauding after each performance like it was a live show. It was great.

  • I don’t think I could’ve seen anyone else besides J. Hud play Effie, and
    I love me some Kelly Price, child! But when Jennifer sang “And I Am
    Telling You”, BABBBBBBBYYYY!!!!! I
    am beautiful woman and I love good man…..inter racial romance is my dream… so I
    joined —blackwhitePlanet.С0M—–it’s where to- connect with
    beautiful and excellent people!
    I didn’t like Jamie Foxx as Curtis and always thought Terrence Howard would have killed that role.

    I saw the movie twice and both times there was applause after
    Jennifer’s AIATY. Never experienced that in a movie theater before or
    since.

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  • dang

    Whitney would’ve SLAYED the part Deena! She would’ve brought the attitude and stronger vocals that bey doesn’t have(no shade) I was actually able to see the Broadway show and deena was a beast. Just imagine the scene where they all gang up on Effie, now put Whitney in with the “Waiting to exhale” attitude. I’m a fan of Beyonce as a performer( she does the dang thing) but her acting is weak.(emotionless, forced, peicey)

    • Teej

      NOOOOO Whitney was a terrible actor… AND a terrible dancer.. (Remember how in ‘Waiting to Exhale” how they put her in the BACK when they danced…)

      She’d have sung it beautifully, of course, but she could NOT act, unless it’s as herself.

      No disrespect, Whitney RIP

  • UghReallyTho

    Why am I not surprised about what Beyonce did to be in the movie. She is SOOOO thirsty for attention and it’s sad. She’s the most thirsty artist ever

    • Teej

      What do you mean, “What Beyonce did…? LOTS of stars dress up FOR the role during the audition. It helps the director/producer instantly picture how it would look. If Dorothy Dandridge hadn’t done similar, we’d not know of her legacy today…

  • Blayke_Love

    The movie was really good. I enjoyed everyone and the roll they played. The only disappointment was after the movie came out. Black WOMEN mad it a competition with Beyonce and Jennifer. Why? Two different rolls and Bey played her part well. You never get that with White actresses…. really sad.

    • kiki j

      I say that all the time. Black women make everything a competition. But I didn’t think beyonce was right for the role. It wasn’t painful to watch, but she should stay in her lane. She’s a great singer and one of the best performer in her element but her acting is mediocre. She only gets these roles because of who she is. But like I said it wasn’t painful watching her.

  • D Boner

    One tiny tidbit you missed: They shot a sex scene with Jennifer and Jamie’s characters, but later cut it out. I remember seeing it on Oprah’s special “Dreamgirls” show. Hmm……wonder why.

  • ijs

    loved this movie even tho i was dragged to the theater lol I think usher wouldnt have been horrible, he wouldve had the singing and dancing down. i think terrance would have been great

  • TRUTH IS

    The last point wasnt a secret since BeDesperate was doing all the press about her and parading like she is the star of the show and deserves and Oscar. I was happy when JHud won and got all the attention cus Jhud could act and singe better then Betacky

    • Blayke_Love

      I realize its easy for folks to be on the bandwagon to HATE on this woman for reasons only black women put out there. But If you know anything about making movies and promoting a movie…THAT IS NOT BEYONCE’s DECISION, The prducers decided who would get the movie buzz. During that time, and NOW Beyonce is the BIGGER celebrity. Also, you cant RE WRITE DREAM GIRLS. Beyonce did not have the starring role, Jennifer played EFFIE. So your HOOD-OLOGY is really ignorant.

      • TRUTH IS

        And the outcome….JHud was the bigger star….we didn’t hear Jhud talking about her lip injections…any press was good press for the movie from anyone. To bad Beytacky cannot make decisions for herself and needs to be “handled” She is a fembot. And she did have the starring role hence her being a nominee for Best actress….you are the hoodlum defending BeDesperate without pay….dolt!!

    • louise_1

      And she definitely cannot act het way out of paper bag. She had nerve to think Hollywood director wanted to work with her. Wasn’t that funny.

  • kierah

    Whitney should have had a negotiator like Beyonce. Bey knew she couldn’t sing “And I’m Telling You,” but she got permission to get another powerhouse song in the second half of the movie. That’s where “Listen” came from.
    And sorry Veronica, but Andre 3000 can not act. (Didn’t you see “Idlewild?”)

  • Vandellish

    This is my 3rd favorite musical of all time after ‘Stormy Weather’ and ‘The Five Heartbeats’.

  • I didn’t like Jamie Foxx as Curtis and always thought Terrence Howard would have killed that role.

    I saw the movie twice and both times there was applause after
    Jennifer’s AIATY. Never experienced that in a movie theater before or
    since. I
    am beautiful woman and I love good man…..inter racial romance is my dream… so I
    joined —blackwhitePlanet.С0M—–it’s where to- connect with
    beautiful and excellent people!I still don’t know how Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar for her role. I
    enjoyed the movie but I definitely don’t feel it was Oscar material.

  • Reese

    I still don’t know how Jennifer Hudson won an Oscar for her role. I enjoyed the movie but I definitely don’t feel it was Oscar material.

  • I wonder if that lil maple syrup, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice diet really works… and how fast it takes to shed the weight. im thinking about trying it…

    • Reese

      It works but you will put the weight right back on, like within a few days or weeks.

    • Its a good way to jump start your weight lost but like @reese said you’ll put it back on if you don’t work out and diet afterwards

    • Vandellish

      I’ve done this Lemonade Fast for almost 14 years and I’ll tell you it’s not meant to be a diet. It is actually a cleanse. It is intended to cleanse the colon and the blood. As the poster below has mentioned if it is done correctly, you will lose weight but then most of the weight will be gained again in a matter of weeks.
      People should also know that this Lemonade Fast must be eased into and eased out of. You can’t eat a steak dinner one day and then go on the fast the next. Ease into the diet with fruits, salads, and lighten your food intake before you start. Then after the diet is finished slowly get back into your regular food intake.
      If you’re looking for an actual diet then try the GM diet and after that incorporate Atkins. Those diets not only work when paired with exercise, they will also change the way you eat period.

  • Papillon

    I didn’t like Jamie Foxx as Curtis and always thought Terrence Howard would have killed that role.

    I saw the movie twice and both times there was applause after Jennifer’s AIATY. Never experienced that in a movie theater before or since.

    • louise_1

      Terrence Howard is a great actor. I’ve always thought he should have played lead in America gangster. He definitely could have pulled it off.

  • I think this movie was cast PERFECTLY!! I don’t think I could’ve seen anyone else besides J. Hud play Effie, and I love me some Kelly Price, child! But when Jennifer sang “And I Am Telling You”, BABBBBBBBYYYY!!!!! Whoooooooo, I KNOW that’s how she got that part!!

  • Love this movie.