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LOS ANGELES — Sure, Usher's been on the big screen before, but that was B.C. (Before Confessions). Now that he's one of the world's biggest music stars, the R&B singer is hoping to up his status as an actor ("She's All That" and "Light It Up" are his best known previous films), and he's dedicating most of 2005 to the cause. His first stride is "Dying for Dolly" with Emmanuelle Chriqui (who played opposite another pop star, Lance Bass, in "On the Line") in the title role and veteran Chazz Palminteri as her mob-boss father. Compared with, say, "The Dukes of Hazzard" with Jessica Simpson, "Dying for Dolly" has flown under the radar. So, determined to get the details on the movie and Usher's celluloid comeback, MTV News' Sway paid a visit to the set, an abandoned club in downtown Los Angeles where the music was pumping but (gasp!) Usher wasn't dancing.

 Photos: On The Set

Sway: First of all, what's the plot of this movie? When you hear the title, "Dying for Dolly," you think violence.

Usher: It's a love story. It's a romantic comedy and the plot of the story, basically, is my character, Daryl Williams, falls in love with an Italian crime boss's daughter. And it's really a story about love and the obstacles that you'll go through in certain situations. Sometimes life is what happens when you're making other plans: You may have a direction that you think is working for you and then something else will happen.

Sway: We haven't seen you in movies in a while, so what attracted you to this role?

Usher: This is sort of my hiatus from music, and I wanted [this movie] to be a project that would be outside the box and not what you would normally expect. When I heard the title, I said the same thing: "Dying for Dolly"? But then I read the script, and it was really a great script, and there's a really a great director associated with it in Ron Underwood ["City Slickers"]. I respect the work that he's done before.

Sway: A lot of people may not be familiar with Emmanuelle. What did you guys see in her to put her in this role?

Usher: She is just a natural talent, a graceful, truly beautiful Italian, a charismatic woman. I think that every Italian woman would feel like, "I think that's my story. That's me."

 Movie House Short: "Dying For Dolly"

Sway: Tell me about the scenes you guys shot today. I saw some dancing, but you didn't dance. What was that about?

Usher: This is a scene where me and Dolly go to a place I work. I'm gonna DJ, and the last place I would've wanted to bring her was a place that I do my thing. I kind of run into a few other females that I dealt with. She takes me out to the dance floor and I don't even want to dance. Then it just turns into a really cool moment, a funny moment.

Sway: Was she at least a wee bit intimidated about having to do a dance scene with you?

Usher: Well, [my character] doesn't really dance. That's not really his thing. He's a producer and Ultimate Records is the name of his label. He has a whole vision. He's searching for that family support, as well as dream of being very successful as an executive, as a producer, as a DJ, all of that. And then all of a sudden he's thrown a curveball in life: He's in a mobster's setting, in a mobster's family, falls in love with a mobster's daughter. It's like, "Ahh!"

Sway: That's a lot of character in one role. How hard did you have to prepare for it?

Usher: It was pretty easy in the sense of understanding the love story, but I'm gonna try some really creative things. Ron Underwood is a great director who gives me good notes and directs me. In preparing for it, I just looked at movies like "A Bronx Tale" with Chazz Palminteri, it was like, "Wow, it's all sort of working together." But this is definitely the first time you've seen a story like this. I think it's something that people will really get a kick out of or be entertained by and get a laugh. My man Kevin Hart is in this as well.

Sway: Who's Kevin Hart?

Usher: Come on, man, "Soul Plane"!

Sway: No, for real. I didn't see "Soul Plane."

Usher: You should for the comedy of Kevin Hart as well as the comedics in it.

Sway: Now, I've watched your career since you first came on the scene and it seems like now you're starting to really break through and get that crossover appeal, but you're staying true to yourself. Are these movies a part of that formula?

Usher: It's a part of creativity. I'm like any other cat who has a lot of dreams and aspirations to do a lot: Jay-Z, all of them. They've done their movies as well as records as well as producing. I never let grass grow under me: I got my label coming, production, etc. There's just so much more coming. And then in business, I know you guys heard about the Usher Raymond IV Debit MasterCard, which, you know, dictates success. Get that card! There's truly great benefits in it, man.

Sway: I'm trying to get mine.

Usher: As a matter of fact, I'm gonna send you one.




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