You've just been told that you have three weeks to live — so what do you do next? In the uplifting comedy "Last Holiday," Queen Latifah and LL Cool J explore the sad, soul-baring answer with a storyline as unexpected as the out-of-left-field diagnosis that sets it into action.
"I'd try to make the world better in three weeks," LL said of his own response to such a situation. "I'd try to uplift and inspire some people in three weeks, and try to get my soul's salvation together."
Such concerns are similarly on the mind of Georgia Byrd, the timid department store clerk portrayed in the film by fellow hip-hop pioneer and Oscar nominee Latifah. When the news of the diagnosis hits her, Georgia initially withdraws her life's savings for a dream vacation at a grand resort in Europe. Through her desire to live life to the fullest, however, she discovers that she's inspiring those around her to do the same.
"It's part of what pulled me in," insisted Latifah, her sincerity shining through with a face-filling grin. "I think the transformation of [Georgia from a person who doesn't] take life by the reins and doesn't enjoy some of the things in life that you should, and then goes into that transition of doing it — that's the fun of it."
The fun was also within the surprisingly unprecedented casting of Latifah and LL as a romantic couple — after years of friendship and more than 40 movies filmed separately. The chemistry between them is as effective as their fans would expect, but what is surprising is watching the larger-than-life personalities portray shy, unlucky-in-love wallflowers barely able to muster up the courage to approach one other.
"The thing that's kind of interesting about making movies is you never quite know whether it's gonna work or not," said director Wayne Wang, the filmmaker behind "Smoke" and other indie hits. "These two really have a chemistry with each other on the screen. It's fun to see them both play characters that turn them on their heads a little bit ... they're both characters that can't quite express themselves, and that's fascinating to me."
"That made it hot and attractive to me," said the famously confident man whose name means "Ladies Love Cool James." "It was an opportunity to play against type; it was a chance to do something that's a little more groundbreaking. None of what I've put together in terms of my persona and my private life helped me prepare for this role. It has nothing to do with my music and nothing to do with my personality — it's just a total acting job."
For Latifah, however, her character's long-distance adoration hit closer to home. "He's a very handsome guy and I sort of had a crush on him when I was growing up," she said in a press statement about the film. "So I just recall how I felt when I had his poster on my wall."
"Wow, he's handsome," she giggled, when asked about the above quote. "It's easy to kinda go into that feeling, that girlish sort of shyness that you feel."
Although only two years younger than LL, Latifah remembered that her bedroom walls featured "a poster or two. I mean, he was one of the best rappers around, and he was young and had a nice shape and all that kind of stuff, so of course I had a poster of him on my wall."
Pressed a bit more, she admitted that they weren't exactly G-rated. "Of course, don't give me a poster with the shirt on," she smiled. "That's no fun."
"That's pretty wild," blushed the man with whom she now shares the silver-screen. "It's a great feeling. It's nice to know that you inspired and touched people. I mean, that's the whole point of being an artist ... it's humbling and it's scary, but it's beautiful."
Now, together, the two hope to inspire audiences and make them laugh with an irreverent "Holiday," whose live-before-you-die concept is similarly scary and beautiful at the same time. "It's heartwarming, heart-whelming, heartfelt, and has an underlying message which is positive," LL pitched.
"It makes you want to live life and it makes you laugh out loud," Latifah chimed in, once again following in the footsteps of her former bedroom-wall inspiration.
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