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Taraji P. Henson: Scene-stealer

The possible Oscar contender talks about her 2005 Academy Award show performance and falling in love with a CGI baby in ”Benjamin Button”

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Three years ago, Taraji P. Henson made it onto the stage of the Kodak Theatre during the Academy Awards ceremony to perform the Oscar-winning song ”It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow. ”I was so nervous,” recalls Henson, 38, who played aspiring singer Shug in the 2005 film. ”I mean, you can imagine the audience — everyone I’ve ever looked up to. I saw Nicole Kidman, I saw Tom Hanks. I had to look over their heads and focus on a spot in the back of the audience.”

This year, Henson is on the short list to earn another invitation to the Oscars, this time as a Best Supporting Actress nominee for her passionate turn as Queenie, Brad Pitt’s adoptive mother, in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Her biggest challenge? For much of the CGI-laden film, she had to act opposite a robotic doll instead of Pitt himself. ”I knew that the moment Queenie saw Benjamin, she had to fall in love with him right away, because if she didn’t, the audience wouldn’t,” says Henson, who also played hard-nosed litigator Whitney Rome on ABC’s Boston Legal. ”So I stared at that little ugly animatronic baby. I stared at it so much that after a while I thought it was cute.”

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