While promoting Miami Vice in July, Jamie Foxx made sure he squeezed in plenty of shout-outs for Dreamgirls, too, even though it’s still months from release. The way he sees it, he’s got to tub-thump early. ”It’s a different animal,” says Foxx. ”It’s a musical, so you have to grow [support] right now. There’s a lot of movies in December…so you gotta make sure you stay in their face.” To that end, DreamWorks and Paramount, the studios behind this $75 million adaptation of the Tony-winning 1981 stage musical, have been giving Dreamgirls the full-court press, including a 20-minute rave-drawing sneak peek at the Cannes film festival in May.
Foxx plays Curtis, a hard-driving music manager who finds his meal ticket in a talented young trio called the Dreamettes (played by pop star Beyoncé Knowles, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose, and former American Idol standout Jennifer Hudson). The singers clash as Curtis elevates Beyoncé’s Deena to the lead position of the group — sort of like what happened with Diana Ross and the Supremes. As Effie, Hudson plays the temperamental diva pushed out in the name of mainstream success. She found her movie gig pretty sweet karma after getting booted from Idol‘s third season. ”Simon [Cowell] said, You only get one shot,” Hudson recalls. ”One shot at fame, and the runner-ups, you ain’t never gonna see again. Y’know what, Simon? I got shot number 2.”
Speaking of comebacks, the loudest buzz on Dreamgirls is over Eddie Murphy’s turn as James Thunder Early, a James Brownesque singer on a downward curve. His manic performances prompted spontaneous ovations on set from the crew — especially since they could see what a stretch the part was for him. ”Eddie seems to be a deeply shy person,” says director Bill Condon. ”I think the kind of really extravagant performing he does here is a struggle for him. He’s like a kid jumping off the diving board. Every time he gets to the edge, he doesn’t want to do it. Then he does it, and he’s thrilled.”