HIP-HOP GETS JAZZY IN IDLEWILD,
STARRING OUTKAST AND TERRENCE HOWARD
Antwan Patton( Big Boi) and André Benjamin (Andre 3000) from the multi-platinum and Grammy winning hip-hop duo, OutKast, lead an all-star cast in Idlewild, an original musical masterpiece with electrifying choreography set in a speakeasy in the rolling 30s. Benjamin portrays Percival, a shy, but talented pianist and writer, while Patton plays Rooster, an uninhibited lead singer and club manager who must elude the notorious gangster-killer “Trumpy” portrayed by Terrence Howard. Universal Pictures will release Idlewild on August 25th.
Benjamin is bursting with pride about the film, “The movie is pretty much every genre. It has drama, action, music, comedy, a love story and gangsters. On top of that, we are styling. It takes place in the ‘30s, so we are impeccably dressed. The look of the film is moody. It’s really, really dope.”
Patton adds, “Our wardrobe in the film is fantastic. We have the whole ‘30s look down to the tee. My special thanks go out personally to Mr. Giorgio Armani for takin’ care of me for ninety percent of the movie,”
OutKast fans will recognize similarity between Benjamin and Patton real personalities and the roles they play in the film. Patton plays Rooster, a family guy who is thrown into a situation where he has to take on the responsibility of managing the nightclub. There is a lot of hustling going on, lots of liquor and booze running. It is a fun place. Then things start to go wrong.
Benjamin tells us, “Just like his character Rooster, Big Boi likes to be the life of the party. He likes to throw the parties and have everybody come down. He’s the festive guy. So, for him to run the speakeasy in the movie, that’s Big Boi. Just like Rooster, Big Boi is a family man, too.”
Percival, on the other hand, is the son of a mortician, who is expected to take over the family business. After his Mom dies, he and his Dad lead a sad and lonely life. In the film, Rooster and Percival meet when they are just six years old and form a lifetime friendship.
Patton says, “I met Dre when we were sixteen in high school and we bonded with each other. Dre’s character, Percival is kind of reclusive, the only child. Dre is an only child, too, but I think Percival might be a bit more troubled. The friendship that we have in the movie is very similar to what we got going on.”
Benjamin offers, “In the movie, the only way that I let loose is by playing the piano. Rooster gives me a job down at the club, that’s my outlet. When a new singer, Angel Davenport, comes to the club, we begin working on music together and eventually fall in love. She turns my life around and encourages me to leave Idlewild, so my talents can blossom.”
Veteran actor Ben Vereen, who plays Percival’s miserable father, generously offered Benjamin acting insights, “Ben taught me about being in the moment and not worrying about if I was good, because if you do, then you’re not in it. And that gave me a lot of freedom and helped me to get to where I needed to be. I will be eternally grateful to him for sharing his wisdom with me,” Benjamin says.
Idlewild is the motion picture debut of writer/director Bryan Barber, who has had a long affiliation with Benjamin and Patton as a video director. Benjamin says, “Honestly, it’s full circle, because I originally met Bryan in Atlanta when I was getting out of high school and he was in film school. At that point we had only put out one album. He would come to me with scripts because he wanted to make films. Eventually we gave him a chance to direct our videos. That was his training ground. I have seen his growth, because I’ve been on the set with him in videos and you can hide behind the music a lot. Videos are big commercials for selling music. However, films are more challenging, and I’m proud to say Bryan has shown his ability to deal with hundreds of people, hundreds of attitudes and hundreds of problems. He does an amazing job.”
Highlights of the filming include the lavish dance numbers choreographed by three-time Tony winner, Hinton Battle. Patton shares, “Hinton pulled together top dancers, who could blend the old dance styles with day’s moves, and put together some incredible dance numbers. I came in and when it was time for me to perform, we had our bits that we did together. I had a ball doing the song and dance sequences.”
Benjamin’s acting credits include the films Four Brothers, Be Cool and the hit TV series The Shield. He also plans to launch his own clothing line this year. Patton most recently starred in the film ATL. He has appeared on television’s Martin and as a featured voice in the MTV series Volcano High, about a teenager with special martial arts skills, and in two episodes of Comedy Central’s Chappelle’s Show.
Idlewild’s all-star cast includes Academy Award nominee Terrence Dashon Howard (Hustle & Flow), Ving Rhames (Don King: Only in America), singing sensations Macy Gray and Patti LaBelle, Faizon Love, who has starred opposite Will Ferrell in the blockbuster Elf. Malinda Williams, who is best known for her television role as Tracy ‘Bird’ Van Adams in Soul Food, for which she garnered a NAACP Image Award nomination. Paula Jai Parker’s, whose film credits include Hustle and Flow, Spike Lee’s She Hate Me, Phone Booth, High Crimes, Get On the Bus, Friday, Why Do Fools Fall in Love, and HBO’s Always Outnumbered. Newcomer Paula Patton was first seen in last year’s smash comedy Hitch, starring Will Smith. Finally, the legendary Cicely Tyson makes an appearance in the film, as well.
One of the most sought-after directors in the music business, Barber was recently nominated for his directorial work on the Christina Aguilera video “Ain’t No Other Man” which garnered four MTV Video Music Award nominations, including Video of the Year. Barber has directed many of OutKast’s videos including “Hey Ya,” which was Grammy-nominated for Best Short Form Video last year, and which was previously honored with four MTV Video Music Awards for Video of the Year, Best Hip Hop Video, Best Special Effects and Best Art Direction. His previous collaborations with OutKast include “The Way You Move” and “Roses” from their disc “Speakerboxxx/Love Below.”
He was honored by his peers in London in May 2004, when he won three Music Video Production Awards (MVPA) for “Hey Ya,” including Video of the Year. Canada’s MuchMusic’s Awards honored him with two wins for “Hey Ya” for Video of the Year and Best Hip Hop Video. His diverse slate of projects includes directing videos for Bow Wow, Faith Evans, Destiny’s Child, Anastacia, G-Unit, Nelly Furtado, Ludacris, Macy Gray, Kelly Clarkson, Missy Elliott and JC Chasez. His striking video work has put him in high demand for commercials, including Victoria’s Secret and Sunkist.
Battle won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in Sophisticated Ladies, Miss Saigon and The Tap Dance Kid, which was also honored with an NAACP Image Award and The Fred Astaire Award. His esteemed career started early in his life when he received a scholarship to attend The School of American Ballet where he studied under George Balanchine. At the age of 15, he made his Broadway debut playing the Scarecrow in The Wiz. His additional stage credits include Ragtime, Dancin’, Dreamgirls and Chicago. He also founded the non-profit organization Hinton Battle Theatre Laboratory to develop ethnically diverse theater projects. His television credits include choreographing the musical episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
This interview was provided by www.rozstevensonpr.com
Grammy-Award winning rap duo Outkast’s new film, “Idelwild” is definitely an “eye-watcher’ from the beginning camera morphing of the town and its people to the last colorful jump-jive jazzy number during the credits with done by Andre Benjamin’s character Percival and the jive lady dancers. It’s “Harlem Nights” meets “Chicago.”
Directed and written by Outkast music video director Brian Barber, "Idlewild" is set in the 1930s at a local speakeasy called The Church in Idlewild, Ga, “Idlewild” and chronicles the life of two boys Percival (played by Andre Benjamin) and Rooster (played by Antwan Patton) and their growing up in this small town.
Visually exiting with beautiful cinematography by Pascal Rabaud, “Idlewild,” although plays like a long music video, has some great acting from the celebrated cast especially Andre Benjamin, newcomer Paula Patton, and Oscar nominee Terrence Howard who plays yet another Oscar worthy role as the quietly menacing gangsta, Trumpy. Veteran actors Ben Vereen and Cicely Tyson, in yet another memorable cameo role (akin to her speech in “Madea’s Family Reunion” ) , also give strong supporting performances.
What makes “Idlewild” a stand out from the musicals that have been produced over the past few years (“Evita”, “Moulin Rouge” “Chicago”) is that they mix the hip-hop and be-bop/jump era as though the genres were one in the same in a very realistic way. It also has a lot of important historicalfootage involving the whole jazz scene and how St. Louis and Chicago played a part in creeating the genre.
True, “Idlewild” comes off a bit cartoonish(eg. musical notes coming to life and a flask with a rooster talking back to the character) , but it is definitely a piece of cinema that will hold up as one of the important black films of the 21st century.
This film is definitely in the running for Oscar consideration for its dazzling period costumes and innovative cinematography I will predict that this film will have a great showing at this weekend’s box office, maybe even take the No. 1 spot.
If you see this film, let me know what you think by posting on here or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
UPDATE: I am in total shock of how well (or should I say how badly) Idlewild performed at the Box Office this past weekend. It came in 9th place (Of the debut this weekend, Mark Wahlberg’s pigskin biopic Invincible was No. 1 raking in $17 million) only taking in barely $6 million! Although it took $15 million to produce, I’m sure the film will break even in the next two weeks.
According to boxofficeguru.com, Universal's music-filled drama Idlewild “bowed in ninth place but generated the best average in the top ten. The OutKast pic grossed an estimated $5.9M from only 973 locations for a solid $6,055 average. Studio research showed that 55% of the audience was over age 30, 61% was female, and 82% was African American."
True, I predicted last week that Idlewild would rank pretty high on the Box Office charts , even to No. 1, but, I have been wrong before (which is rare in itself. LOL).
If you saw the flick, email me at email@example.com
and let me know what you thought of it, if it should have ranked better than No. 9 and I will post your comments on my site!