NEW YORK — Beyoncé fans who have believed chatter that she’s feuding with Diana Ross over “Dreamgirls” are about to get a wake-up call: Knowles says there is no truth to the rumors.
“I actually spoke to her at a Clive Davis party,” Knowles said to a roomful of reporters earlier this month while promoting the upcoming film. “She was so nice. And it made me very happy because I respect her and I want her to be happy.”
In “Dreamgirls,” Knowles plays Deena, lead singer of a fictional ’60s trio called the Dreams (see “Jamie Foxx Raves About Beyonce, Ribs Eddie Murphy At ‘Dreamgirls’ Event” and “Beyonce Slimming Down And ‘Completely Becoming Deena’ “ ). The story spans several years, and audiences get to see each woman’s plight as the group rises to fame. The movie is based on the play of the same name that opened in 1981, and to this day, there are still rumors that the characters were inspired by Diana Ross & the Supremes.
“Deena is not Diana Ross,” Knowles clarified. “It was very clear that a lot of the story lines never happened to Diana. I kind of borrowed some of her posture and makeup, but it stops there. She’s definitely stronger and has a different story.”
In recent weeks, reports have swirled that Ross has taken offense to the movie and is even protesting its release. But the veteran singer has not come out publicly and addressed the star-studded project, which hits L.A. and New York in limited release Friday and opens nationwide Christmas Day. Ross’ camp was unable for comment as of press time.
“I would hope she wasn’t,” Knowles answered when asked about rumors that Ross was upset over the film. “I love her. I think she’s amazingly talented. I hope she enjoys the movie.”
While pumping up the flick, Knowles also shot down talk that she didn’t get along with co-star Jennifer Hudson because of jealousy over the newcomer having the meatier role in the film. Hudson has been receiving a myriad of accolades for her portrayal of Effie White (see “Jennifer Hudson’s ‘Dream’ Is Reality: R&B Album, Starring With Beyonce, Jamie Foxx” ).
“I didn’t have the part with the most drama, I was fine with that,” Knowles clarified. “I’m not doing this to become a star or prove that I can sing. I’ve already won nine Grammys and everyone knows that I can sing. I did this mainly to know I can act, to know myself and show everyone else that I could. I’m extremely happy with the movie. I’m extremely proud of Jennifer. I think she’s incredible. It’s so unfortunate that once again the media is starting things with women. … You hear I’m mad. Why would I be mad? I’m a part of an Oscar-buzz-[worthy] movie.
“Why would I be mad at Jennifer?” she continued. “I can only imagine the pressure she had being a woman that’s never had an album, never done a movie. When I told people I’m doing ‘Dreamgirls,’ they were like, ‘That’s good. Who’s doing Effie? Is she singing “And I Am Telling You [I'm Not Going]” right?’ … That [song] is what the [production] is famous for, [and] she pulled it off. She’s sweet, she incredible and I hope she maintains that same sweetness. … She’s gifted, and I hope she maintains that.”
“It is a surprise,” Hudson said of the ballyhoo over the alleged quarrelling, “because [Beyoncé] is a sweet girl and we’ve always got along. It’s like, ‘Where did this come from?’ Any time when something is going good, somebody is gonna find anything to turn from a molehill and make a mountain out of it. But Beyoncé and I support each other the same as we did when we first started. That’s my ‘Dream’ sister. There’s nothing but love for each other.”
Beyoncé says she would have been happy with any role she could get her hands on — she wanted to be part of the movie that badly. Knowles became familiar with the play 10 years ago as a teen and instantly fell in love with the story. She says the onetime Broadway musical was inspiration for some of the choreography and staging that Destiny’s Child used over the years.
To show you how things come full circle, Knowles revealed that she first met with director Bill Condon while on the road with her group.
“He said, ‘I’m not sure if you can play this part. I’m not sure if people will believe you as Deena when she’s more plain and younger,’ ” she recalled. “I did a screen test. I found the ugliest wig I could find and put the thickest eyebrows on my eyes I could. I got the part. I was the first one cast. I knew this would be important, I knew this would be history. I knew Deena was not written as the strong powerhouse singer. She’s actually not even the star of the movie — it’s an ensemble cast — but I didn’t care. I just wanted to be a part of something so wonderful, and I did it.”
In the movie, Hudson has her crescendo scene when she sings “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,” the epitome of a power ballad, made famous 25 years ago by Jennifer Holliday. Knowles gets her chance to sing out via the tune “Listen” — the scene comes toward the end of the movie, when Deena goes through a life change.
“Bill Condon suggested ‘Listen,’ ” she said of the song, the only original one in the movie. “Actually, it was in the script I read. He felt the second half needed another song. … It was exciting for me. … It was important for Deena’s character, because she was so controlled [throughout] the whole movie — so manipulated — and finally, when she stands up for herself, it’s so effective. I love the record. I think it’s something that’s still relevant now. Everyone has a moment when they decide they’re taking control of their life.”
Offscreen, Knowles has another one of those empowering women anthems, “Irreplaceable,” to her own name. The song is #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“I love ‘Irreplaceable,’ ” she said. “I think it’s important to have those songs. I’ve had so many people come up to me in tears saying, ‘I experienced my first breakup. If it wasn’t for the song, I wouldn’t be strong enough to not call. I wouldn’t know how much I’m worth.’ I’m happy to be a part of that. I wrote ‘Independent Women’ and ‘Bootylicious’ and ‘Survivor,’ and it helped women with their self-esteem. I’m happy to continue to do that.”
B and the girls are hitting the road next year, and she’s taking her all-female band on tour this spring (see “Beyonce Asks Women To Battle Over Her For Backing-Band Roles” ). They’ll need a few suitcases, as the multitasking star plans to be out for a while.
“I go on tour the end of April until September,” she divulged. “I love to tour. I love to perform every night. It’s kinda like I get to be my own director and do my own production. It’s exciting. I always try to find new dancers. I was given an opportunity and I like to give new people opportunity … so I have auditions all across America. It’ll be the same type of show: broken down with me singing, big production, and dancers and a band, the whole nine.”
Knowles says there are currently no new movies on her horizon. She’s waiting for producers to get a load of her chops in “Dreamgirls” first.
“After the movie comes out, I know [the] scripts [I'm offered] will change,” she determined.
Check out everything we’ve got on “Dreamgirls.”
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