Yesterday afternoon Sony Pictures held a forty-five minute press conference for its upcoming ensemble drama Cadillac Records. Adrien Brody, Columbus Short, Gabrielle Union, Jeffrey Wright, and Eamonn Walker answered questions about the project in a noticeably strained atmosphere. Conspicuously absent was writer-director Darnell Martin, a TV veteran who’s previous feature credit was the 2005 adaptation of Their Eyes Were Watching God, starring Halle Berry.
Wright, who played Chicago blues-legend Muddy Waters in the film, described the experience as “a very tense 28 day shoot” made on a budget of “three dollars and thirty-five cents.” Brody, sporting a beard that prompted a reporter to blurt out ‘You look like Jesus!’ echoed Wright’s assessment.
“It was a very difficult shoot,” said Brody, “especially so many musical pieces in such a short time frame.” Brody, who played the role of controversial R&B figure Leonard Chess, was referring to the numerous studio and on-stage sequences throughout the film.
Colombus Short and Gabrielle Union had the unique challenge of playing historical figures with almost no confirmed history from which to build.
“Little Walter was daunting,” admitted Short, who nonetheless gave a remarkable performance as the hard-living harmonica legend. “He has no family left. There was no one to accept his award at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There’s no one left to speak for Little Walter.”
Union had a similar problem as Muddy Waters longtime companion Geneva Wade. There wasn’t much hard data to go on aside from the personal recollections of friends. Although co-star Wright did have a photograph.
“After I looked at it I wanted to ask Darnell, ‘what exactly did you see?’” said Union to the large lack of resemblance between herself and the original Ms. Wade.
“You need to eat, girl!” Wright shouted, breaking the somber mood that had settled on the room.
“You need to get yourself some ribs!” he heckled.
In light of the recent dust-up over his interview in The Advocate, Brody seemed distracted. He tended to ramble and at one point tape recorders were literally clicking off across the room as the tapes ran out. When one reporter questioned the movie’s authenticity and liberal dramatic play with chronology, Brody sidestepped.
“Ultimately it’s a filmmaker’s decision.” Brody stated, unintentionally drawing attention to the void left by director Martin. “As actors [the accuracy] is not our responsibility.”
Wright, however, took great personal care in the details of playing Muddy Waters with the help of veteran music producer Steve Jordan.
“Steve Jordan was the reason for my doing the movie. I was wishy-washy about doing it,” revealed Wright, then catching himself and adding …as I am with acting in general.”
But in spite of the challenges the movie presented, the cast was proud of the time they put in.
“It changed the way I thought about what I do.” says Short, of going toe-to-toe with award-winning actors.
“There was a lot of laughter [and good energy] from the crew,” noted Wright, ” And when that happens you know you’re onto something.”
Check back to Screencrave for a more detailed rundown of the event and our review of Cadillac Records, hitting theaters December 5th.