Brody, Wright join musical Chess club


Jan 22 / 2008

By Leslie Simmons

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Adrien Brody will play Chess Records founder Leonard Chess in "Cadillac Records", a musical biopic that follows the turbulent lives of such bluesmen as Muddy Waters, Little Walter, and Howlin' Wolf.

Additionally, Jeffrey Wright will play Waters in the tale of sex, violence, race and rock'n'roll in 1950's Chicago.

Writer/director Darnell Martin will start shooting the Sony BMG Film project in early March in New Jersey and Mississippi. Matt Dillon had been attached to play Chess, but had to drop out because of a scheduling conflict.

The Chess Records roster included not only Waters, Little Walter and Howlin' Wolf, but also the likes of Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon and Etta James. It proved hugely influential on such acts as the Rolling Stones, who recorded at the Chicago studio in the early 1960's and even recorded an instrumental named after its street address, "2120 South Michigan Avenue".

Also newly cast in the film are Columbus Short, Cedric the Entertainer, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Tammy Blanchard.

Brody recently wrapped the indie film "The Brothers Bloom", while Wright is filming the new James Bond movie in London.

Cedric the Entertainment co-stars in the comedy "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" which opens February 8. Short is filming the thriller "Armored" with Dillon and recently wrapped the horror film "Quarantined". Chriqui's credits include HBO's "Entourage" and the indie film "Tortured." Blanchard recently finished production on the independent romance comedy "The Ramen Girl".

Beyoncé to play singer Etta James in Cadillac Records

Black Voices

Jan 25 / 2007

By Wilson Morales

Having achieved major success on the stage and screen as a singer and as an actress, Beyoncé, who starred in "Dreamgirls", will be singing again on the big screen for her next big role. While speaking to Cedric the Entertainer on his latest film, "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins", he mentioned to that Beyoncé has been cast to play famed singer Etta James on his next film, "Cadillac Records".

The story is about Leonard Chess, the legendary founder of the South Side Chicago blues label Chess Records. The period piece follows the rise and fall of Chess Records, which launched the careers of such R&B greats as Muddy Waters, Etta James and Chuck Berry. Chess, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, scoured the South, checking out the various blues scenes and selling records from the back of his Cadillac. Cedric the Entertainer will play Willie Dixon, who wrote most of the hits records and was part of the famous company. One of his most famous songs was "Hoochie Coochie Man".

Oscar winner Adrien Brody has also joined the cast to replace Matt Dillon as Leonard Chess, the founder of Chess Records. Dillon had to drop out of the project due to a scheduling conflict. As previously reported, Jeffrey Wright will portray Muddy Waters in the film set in 1950's Chicago. Also new to the cast are Emmanuelle Chriqui, Columbus Short and Tammy Blanchard. Darnell Martin (Their Eyes Were Watching God) penned the script and is directing. Sony/BMG's Sofia Sondervan and Andrew Lack are producing. According to James landed at Chicago's Chess Records in 1960, signing with their Argo subsidiary. Immediately, her recording career kicked into high gear; not only did a pair of duets with her then-boyfriend (Moonglows lead singer Harvey Fuqua) chart, her own sides (beginning with the tortured ballad "All I Could Do Was Cry") chased each other up the R&B lists as well. Leonard Chess viewed James as a classy ballad singer with pop crossover potential, backing her with lush violin orchestrations for 1961's luscious "At Last" and "Trust in Me". But James' rougher side wasn't forsaken - the gospel-charged "Something's Got a Hold on Me" in 1962, a kinetic 1963 live LP (Etta James Rocks the House) cut at Nashville's New Era Club, and a blues-soaked 1966 duet with childhood pal Sugar Pie De Santo, "In the Basement", ensured that.

Beyoncé nabs Etta James role in upcoming movie

Jan 28 / 2008

By Janeé Bolden

Beyoncé will be taking on another iconic role in her next big film, portraying legendary songstress Etta James in "Cadillac Records".

According to, Beyoncé will join Cedric the Entertainer, Jeffrey Wright, Columbus Short, Tammy Blanchard, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Oscar winner Adrien Brody in the period piece, set in 1950's Chicago. Cadillac Records explores the rise and fall of Chess Records, the label responsible for kicking off the careers of Chuck Berry, Etta James and Muddy Waters.

Brody will play Leonard Chess, who launched the label from the back of his Cadillac. The role was vacated by Matt Dillon, who was forced to give up the part because of a scheduling conflict. Cedric the Entertainer will play Willie Dixon, songwriter for many Chess Records hits, including "Hoochie Coochie Man", Jeffrey Wright will portray Muddy Waters.

The revelation of Beyoncé's latest film role comes on the heels of the recent news that she will be performing at the 50th Annual Grammy's; a decision that initially drew criticism from some, who felt the multi-platinum singer and SAG actress was being disloyal to the current WGA writer strike.

While the WGA has since decided not to picket the Grammy's, leaving Beyoncé and the ceremony in the clear, at the time of her announcement the union was still considering a picket on the show.

Nivola just a pawn in Chess war

MTV Movies Blog

Feb 5 / 2008

By MTV film experts

Like Truman Capote and Steve Prefontaine before him, legendary record producer Leonard Chess is about to get the biopic treatment... Twice.

Fresh on the heels of rumors that Beyoncé Knowles is set to play Etta James in the Chess film "Cadillac Records", "Jurassic Park III" star Alessandro Nivola revealed exclusively to MTV News that he's set to star in a competing Chess project.

"I'm gonna play Leonard. They've only just put my deal together", he enthused. "The rest of the cast is just now gonna start coming together".

Chess was a record producer who "ended up discovering Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry, Bo Diddly and John Lee Hooker" among others, Nivola said.

"He's this fascinating character that was a Jewish immigrant of Chicago", Nivola explained of the character. "When he was 11 in the 1930's and 1940's, he started hanging out on the Southside in the black clubs and got obsessed with black music".

Interesting to be sure. But why two different movies?

Why not eight, Nivola questioned, calling Chess a bit like Al Pacino in "The Godfather 2".

"He was a really controversial figure because, on the one hand, he made is fortune coming from nothing having crossed the racial barrier, and on the other hand he [screwed] a lot of those musicians out of their royalties", Nivola asserted. "He was a ruthless businessman and not much of a family, somebody who's a powerful charismatic person but morally ambiguous".

Sounds like a musical biopic without much music. Do two flicks about Leonard Chess whet your appetite? Sound off below.

Alessandro Nivola to play blues mogul in "Chess"


Feb 12 / 2008

By Carly Mayberry

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Alessandro Nivola, in theaters with the horror remake "The Eye," will star in "Chess", one of two competing movies revolving around Leonard Chess, the record mogul who signed such acts as Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry.

Nivola will play the self-made music impresario whose Chicago-based Chess Records label provided a mainstream platform for blues and early rock'n'roll.

David Oyelowo (The Last King of Scotland) will play Waters, while Jon Abrahams (Boston Public) will play Phil Chess, Leonard's younger brother. Jerry Zaks is directing. Shooting is set to begin April 7 in New Orleans.

The film will compete against Sony BMG Film's "Cadillac Records". Adrien Body stars as Leonard Chess, Jeffrey Wright as Waters, and Cedric the Entertainer as singer/songwriter Willie Dixon. Filming starts next month in New Jersey and Mississippi.

Three join "Chess"

The Hollywood Reporter

Feb 12 / 2008

By Carly Mayberry

Alessandro Nivola, David Oyelowo and Jon Abrahams will sail the musical waters together in the feature biopic "Chess". Jerry Zaks is directing.

The story chronicles the life of Leonard Chess (Nivola), a self-made music impresario and renowned record company executive who brought blues into the public eye and jump-started the careers of some of the music industry's biggest names, including Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry.

Oyelowo will play Waters, while Abrahams will play Phil Chess, Leonard's younger brother who worries when Leonard becomes involved with a singer who has been signed to their label. The film will compete against Sony BMG Film's "Cadillac Records", which also centers on the rise and fall of Chess' blues label Chess Records. That film stars Adrien Body and Jeffrey Wright and is set to begin production in March.

The script for "Chess" was penned by Peter Wortmann and Bob Conte and is being produced by Jonathan Mitchell, Les Alexander and Andrea Baynes through Checkmate Prods.

Shooting is set to begin April 7 in New Orleans.

Nivola is repped by WMA and Management 360. Oyelowo is repped by ICM, Hamilton Hodell in London and Rigberg Entertainment Group. Abrahams is repped by Gersh and attorney Deborah Klein. Zaks is repped by WMA.


Comic/Actor lives up to his name

Feb 12 / 2008

By Kenya M Yarbrough

*Comedian Cedric the Entertainer is living up to his name. One of the hilarious stars of the new film "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins", with Martin Lawrence, Ced is already working on several new movies, prepping for a new television show and launched his own production company, A Bird and A Bear Entertainment.

In "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins", which opened this past weekend at # 2 with $17.1 million, Cedric plays Clyde, Roscoe's (Lawrence) very competitive kin. The film also stars comedians Mike Epps and Mo'Nique - just adding to the comic crew.

"Mike Epps and Mo'Nique, they've got these really big personalities", Cedric said of dealing with a cast of comics. "And Epps will go off on some crazy tangents. It was definitely hard. We tried to encourage each other, but that's a mark of a comic; to make another comic laugh. I tried to get Martin to break on camera".

Cedric told reporters of how working with Lawrence, Epps, and Mo'Nique was a lot of fun, not to mention working with other co-stars James Earl Jones, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Nicole Ari Parker, but he also mentioned how endearing the film was to him.

"I was raised in St. Louis, but before that, in a small town called Caruthersville, Missouri, which was very reminiscent of where we shot this movie," he said. "When you go to a small town, you're a star for maybe an hour. You come back and then it's right back to, 'Go get some wood for the fireplace".

Furthermore, the film features some funny lines and some hilarious physical comedy, including hardly friendly family competitions. Cedric recalled one particular scene that pitted him against the pretty fit Lawrence in an obstacle course.

"Ideally when you're reading in the script, it seems funny", he said. "And then you show up and it's an obstacle course and you're saying, 'Hey, where's the movie magic?' It was like an 80-yard obstacle course and we had to do it five, six times because they gotta (film) your feet, then they had to see your face".

Cedric explained that Lawrence was actually pretty competitive on the course and joked about trying to convince him to slow down.

"I mean, we're just shooting a movie, man", he told him.

Doing quite well on the big screen with this film and roles in "Barbershop" and its sequel, and in last year's critically acclaimed "Talk to Me" with Don Cheadle, Ced is working to come back to the small screen. He shot the pilot for a sitcom on the ABC network just before the Writers Guild strike and hopes to resume production soon.

"It's a very funny family situational comedy", he described. "I'm very excited about it. As soon as we get this writers' strike done we can get back to it. I'm looking forward to going back to television. I have small kids and the last films I've done have been three months in Ireland, three months in Vancouver, three months in Shreveport so I was just missing a lot of life. Plus, it's the opportunity to put some African-American faces on television, but the idea was for me to be at home where I can just go to work and be a part of my kids' lives".

The new TV show has him as a responsible, hard-working dad, too. Cedric plays an insurance man who's provided for his family for 15 years when his wife, played by Regina Hall, makes her hobby into a major money-making business.

"[My character] has a small insurance agency in Inglewood and my wife's hobby is as an urban Martha Stewart. She blows up and becomes the breadwinner. And then people think I'm some 'Kevin Federline' or something. It's the story of me being a man where people perceive I'm being taken care of".

Ced has also started work on the film "Back to School", a remake of the '80s Rodney Dangerfield flick and he also begins work on "Cadillac Records" this March. "Cadillac Records" follows the rise and fall of the legendary Chicago blues label Chess Records - the record company home of music legends Muddy Waters, Etta James, and Chuck Berry.

"This movie, in a way, is about the start of rock and roll", Ced said. "There are a couple of really great things in the movie. One, you see that the Rolling Stones and all these guys in showbiz were very inspired by the guitar play of the great blues singers. The Rolling Stones admit that they named themselves after one of Muddy Waters' hit records. So you get to see how people are inspired by music. And I think that, along with Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry, it's interesting to see when things popped up, when they popped into pop culture. We always want credit, but this is an opportunity to show these things".

Knowles to rev up "Cadillac"

The Hollywood Reporter

Feb 20 / 2008

By Leslie Simmons

Beyoncé Knowles is adding "executive producer" to her resume.

The 10-time Grammy winner has signed on to executive produce and star in Darnell Martin's "Cadillac Records" for Sony BMG Films.

Knowles will play Etta James in the 1950's period film about the Chicago record company Chess Records; its founder, Leonard Chess; and the turbulent lives of some of the label's legends, who included Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howlin' Wolf and Chuck Berry.

Martin (Their Eyes Were Watching God) penned the screenplay. Sony BMG's Andrew Lack and Sofia Sondervan are producing for the 3-year-old specialty label.

Knowles joins a cast that includes Adrien Brody (Chess), Jeffrey Wright (Waters), Cedric the Entertainer (Willie Dixon) and Columbus Short (Little Walter). Emmanuelle Chriqui and Tammy Blanchard co-star.

Music for the film is being produced by Steve Jordan ("Cars" and "The Sopranos"). Knowles will record four songs for the soundtrack, which will be released through Music World Entertainment and Columbia Records.

The singer-actress will donate a portion of her fees for the film to recovering addicts through her family's charity, the Survivor Foundation, according to her reps.

Knowles (Austin Powers in Goldmember) earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Deena Jones in 2006's "Dreamgirls" and a 2008 Grammy nomination for best compilation soundtrack album for the film. She also was nominated for the record of the year Grammy this year for her song "Irreplaceable".

Knowles is repped by ICM and Music World Entertainment.

Gabrielle Union Cast In "Cadillac Records" As Geneva Wade, Muddy Waters' Girlfriend"

Mos Def confirmed as Chuck Berry

Black Voices

Mar 24 / 2008

By Wilson Morales

If all goes well, "Cadillac Records" is shaping up to be the next big musical that will bring folks back to the past as some of the best musicians you probably haven't heard of, aside from a few, are being played on the big screen.

With Jeffrey Wright set to play Muddy Waters, Gabrielle Union has been recently cast to play his girlfriend-then wife Geneva Wade.

The story is about Leonard Chess, the legendary founder of the South Side Chicago blues label Chess Records. The period piece follows the rise and fall of Chess Records, which launched the careers of such R&B greats as Muddy Waters, Etta James and Chuck Berry. Chess, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987, scoured the South, checking out the various blues scenes and selling records from the back of his Cadillac.

According to the book "Can't Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters" by Robert Gordon, Geneva Wade was Muddy Waters' girlfriend in the late 1940s. She would later become Mrs. Muddy Waters, Geneva Morganfield. Muddy's real name was McKinley Morganfield. Her kids through another relationship were raised by her and Muddy. The song "Little Geneva" was based on her. The book states that Muddy was quoted as saying "When I met her, even though I was a recording success, there were still people who scorned my music. Geneva encouraged me to ignore them and fight for what I wanted to accomplish. I'll never be able to put words the way I feel about her".

Knowles (Austin Powers in Goldmember) earned a Golden Globe nomination for her role as Deena Jones in 2006's "Dreamgirls" and a 2008 Grammy nomination for best compilation soundtrack album for the film. She also was nominated for the record of the year Grammy this year for her song "Irreplaceable".

Directed by Darnell Martin, the film also stars Adrian Brody as Leonard Chess, Cedric the Entertainer as Willie Dixon, Beyonce Knowles as Etta James, Eamonn Walker as Howlin' Wolf, Columbus Short as Little Walter and Mos Def confirmed as Chuck Berry. Currently filming in New Jersey, Sony BMG will release "Cadillac Records" in 2009.