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December 2006
DREAMGIRLS: An Interview with Hinton Battle

DREAMGIRLS: An Interview with Hinton Battle
By Wilson Morales

December 11, 2006

Whenever Hollywood decides to make a film as a remake or a version of something from television or Broadway, people wonder whether or not, someone from the original production will make an appearance. As the film version of “Dreamgirls” got underway, Director Bill Condon brought Loretta Devine, who played Lorrell in the original, to make a cameo appearance. She wouldn’t be the only one in the film tied to the Broadway show. Hinton Battle, who plays the role of Wayne in the film, was also part of the Broadway show. He took over the role of James “Thunder” Early from Cleavant Derricks. Battle has been a Broadway for years, having won 3 Tonys and many accolades. He’s also an accomplished choreographer having done many shows, including the Academy Awards with Debbie Allen. He recently worked on “Idlewild” and currently directs the Off-Broadway show, Evil Dead. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Battle talks about his role, the difference between the show and film, and working the Jamie Foxx.


What character do you play in the film?

Hinton Battle: I play Wayne. Wayne is Curtis’ right hand man. Curtis is played by Jamie Foxx.


How did you go about in getting the role?

HB: I heard that they were having auditions and I went in and the auditions were in New York. Then they sent me to LA, and I got a call in the middle of shooting “Idlewild” that Bill Condon wanted to meet with me. So we met and he offered me the role of Wayne, and I said “Absolutely”.


Did Bill know that you had appeared in the Broadway production of the film? Was that odd?

HB: It wasn’t odd at all, it was kind of neat. The movie, although it’s a great rendition and a great film and production of the Broadway show, there are differences and Bill was able to enhance those differences by adding the depth that was already there and laying the background of what was happening socially in the African American community. With the Broadway show, it wasn’t there. He made the film more richer and made the characters more developed and added more characters to the movie. It wasn’t odd at all.


At any time, did he ask you for any input for the film as far what to leave in and what to leave to out being you were part of the Broadway show?

HB: No. Bill Condon is not only the director but he’s also the writer. He did his homework and his research.


You are a man who wears many hats. Being a choreographer as well, did you help Fatima Robinson in any way?

HB: I’m a man who wears many hats, but also someone who knows a thing about this business. I was hired as an actor and that’s what I went in to do. Fatima was the choreographer and worked on what she wanted me to do. That’s whatit is about, creating new vision. As an actor that’s what I do, contributing my talents to her vision and put my spin on it.


Without being bias, how do you think the film compares to the show?

HB: Well, I don’t think you can really compare them. The show is brilliant as a theatrical piece and the movie is brilliant and that’s not being bias, it’s what it really is. There are both done well. One is adapted for the theater and one is adapted for the screen.


How was working with Jamie Foxx?

HB: I have so much respect for Jamie. I think he’s brilliant. Not only does he get to the set and does he needs to do, but he’s funny. The man is really funny. He can also turn it off and get into that character, which is not necessarily a likeable character sometimes. It was good to work with him. I had one really scene with him and it fun doing that scene. I think he’s an extremely talented man.


What do you make of the cast and the hype that the film has received thus far?

HB: Jennifer Hudson kills. She just kills. She’s goingto be huge from this movie. Her acting is great, her singing is great. Her character is great. She looks great. There will be a lot of comparisons between her and Miss Holiday, but she puts her own spin on it and she does it brilliantly.


You also worked on the choreography on “Idlewild”. How did you land gig?

HB: That’s an interesting story. I had done lots on Broadway and I decided I wanted to do something different. I had some films, small roles here and there, but I just to get more behind the scenes, and through my manager, I had heard about this new movie called “Idlewild”, which stars OutKast, and they were seeing choreographers and they wouldn’t see me unless I had a reel. My stuff is so old. I just to do videos back in the 80s, and so I didn’t have anything current, so I told them I would go into the studio and hire some dancers, put it together, edit it and get it to them in 2 days. That’s what I did. He saw the tape. He loved it. He was coming to New York. He, being the director Bryan Barber, and we met for drinks, and after an hour of meeting, he asked if I wanted the job, and I said, “Absolutely. I want it.” And we were off.


When is the next time we will see you on Broadway?

HB: I don’t know. I’ve been directing other stuff. I’ve got an Off-Broadway show running now, called Evil Dead, which is a remake of Sam Rami’s Evil Dead. I directed and choreographed it. It got great reviews. It’s doing well. I’m about to direct a new show called “Respect” and I have another show that will come out in the Fall, which is a huge dance show. I can’t say muchnow until we lock it all down and then I’ll probably be shooting another movie in March.


What do you attribute your longevity in this business, stage and screen?

HB: I just don’t give. I don’t take no and I have a lot of fun for what I do. Once I get bored with it, I move on to something else. It keeps me interested in want to keep creative. I just try to utilize the talents that I believe I have and not being afraid to go for it. Just believe in what you have as a gift and put it out there and not be afraid.


For those who don’t know so much about the show and film, but should folks come out to see Dreamgirls?

HB: They are going to get Black folks looking great. You are going to see some emotional performances. They are going to see some great dancing and beautiful stars like Beyonce and it’s going to touch your heart, your soul, and will make you proud that you had gone to see it.

 

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