HOLLYWOOD — Now that 17-year-old superstar Chris Brown has conquered the music industry, he’s saying “Gimme That” to the gatekeepers of Hollywood as well.
First up, he makes his movie debut with Friday’s in-your-face dance flick “Stomp the Yard” (see “Ne-Yo, Chris Brown Open Up About Stepping Up For ’Stomp The Yard’ “ ). And next up is a special gift to himself: another few months of Christmas.
“Is it weird doing Christmas a few weeks after Christmas? Not really,” Brown grinned last weekend. “We’re getting prepared for next Christmas.”
Brown stepped in front of the cameras Monday (January 8) for “This Christmas,” a family-friendly holiday flick that will mark his first true leading-man role. Co-starring Regina King, Mekhi Phifer, Delroy Lindo and Nia Long, the December ’07 release will once again have Brown playing the younger brother of his “Yard” co-star, A-list choreographer Columbus Short.
“We’re doing another movie together,” grinned Short, joking that he and Brown are on their way to becoming the next Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. “It’s great to keep us working together; we’re trying to be the new, young rat pack.”
Like Martin and Sinatra, the duo plan to keep using their films as a showcase for the talents that brought them to Hollywood in the first place. Just as “Yard” displays Short’s formidable dance skills, “Christmas” will cast Brown as an aspiring singer, allowing him to sink his teeth into a pair of classic songs.
“I’m going to do the soundtrack, I’m doing ’This Christmas’ and ’Try a Little Tenderness,’ ” Brown revealed, referring to covers of the Donny Hathaway holiday standard and the soul stirrer made famous by Otis Redding, respectively. “All those are older songs from back in the day. They’re R&B soul songs, so really I’m going to do that just to show y’all an older side of Chris Brown — because I’m gonna be 18 on May 5!”
Brown spent Sunday evening at Hollywood’s Chalice Recording Studios, laying down his cover of the title tune his character will sing in the movie.
” ’This Christmas’ is a classic song,” Brown told MTV News, insisting that the 1970 holiday favorite means a lot to him since it got played in his house every year growing up. “My daddy was still trying to graduate from middle school,” Brown laughed. “This song just signifies Christmas. At the same time, when you feel that soul in it, it has a soul of its own era.”
Wearing a festive red sweatshirt and green hat, and hanging in a candle-lit recording booth, Brown crooned lyrics like “Fireside is blazing bright/ we’re caroling through the night” while Columbus Short discussed the movie itself. “It’s like ’The Family Stone’ meets ’Waiting to Exhale,’ ” he explained. “I play a character named Claude in the film, and I come home from the Marines bearing a secret.”
Short’s Claude is one of the many members of the Whitfield family, a huge clan living in Los Angeles’ Ladera Heights neighborhood who haven’t been together for four years. “It’s a film about a family who all comes together for the holidays,” Will Packer, producer of “Stomp” and “This Christmas,” said of the plot. “It’s Christmas in L.A., and you don’t see that portrayed on film a lot. The family undergoes a lot of trials, tribulations and turmoil … it’s about how they stay together as a family, how they maintain those family bonds.”
The film stars Loretta Devine (one of the original “Dreamgirls” from the stage play) as the mother and Lindo as the family patriarch. King, Long and “ATL” actress Lauren London are slated to play the family’s sisters, while Brown, Short and “The Wire” actor Idris Elba are taking on the roles of the brothers. “Dawn of the Dead” star Phifer will serve as executive producer, and also act in “Christmas” as Long’s love interest.
“My character’s name is Baby,” Chris Brown reported. “I’m the baby of the family. I’m still living with my Mom, and I’m gonna be 18 and I need to move out of the house.”
Baby’s secret in the film is that he wants to be a singer — news that’s sure to upset his mother, since the lure of musical stardom has already taken the family’s father and an older brother away. Struggling with inner conflict, Baby decides to reveal himself at a Christmas church service by getting up on the altar and singing “This Christmas” to his mother since it’s her favorite song. In short, be sure to bring the Kleenex.
“It actually intertwines with the movie and the scene,” Brown said of the song, which he has performed in concert before. “It’s gonna be a crazy opportunity.”
“This Christmas” will be hitting movie theaters and releasing its soundtrack, well, this Christmas.
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