Thursday, September 18, 2003

Acting tempts Beyonce

With only two big-screen roles, the singer is still learning - but watch out, Barbra Streisand

By Nekesa Mumbi Moody
The Associated Press

In her new movie, The Fighting Temptations, Beyonce Knowles plays a singer - but that's where the similarities between the superstar and her character end.

Beyonce's "Lily" is a single woman with a young son and questionable morals. When filmmakers learned that Beyonce - who has a sexy yet sugary-sweet persona - was interested in playing the role, they attempted to change the character to match her wholesome image, she says.

"I was like, 'No, it makes the character more interesting.' I'm becoming an actress, so the more depth to the character, the better," she says.

Although Beyonce made her movie debut as Foxxy Cleopatra in last year's blockbuster Austin Powers in Goldmember, she's known more for musical smash hits like "Crazy In Love."

Now she wants to be just as big as an actress. The Fighting Temptations, which opens Friday, could give her acting career a big boost - the family-friendly comedy romantically pairs her with Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr.

How did you come into this role?

I told my agent the next movie I did, I wanted to make sure that it was something that was real, it was a realistic character, and I wanted to make sure that I could show a little more of my range and add more dramatic scenes. ... I wanted to do something different, and I wanted to do something risky.

How has your acting progressed from the MTV special "Carmen: a Hip-Hopera" to now?

Experience. Every time I do a movie, it feels just easier, and I get more comfortable.

Who are some of the actresses you draw inspiration from?

I like musicals a lot; I like triple threats. I like Barbra Streisand, I like Diana Ross, I like all the old movies, where the women had to be able to sing and dance and act.

If you were in "Chicago," what role would you have wanted to play?

I got chills when I saw Catherine (Zeta-Jones) and Renee (Zellweger). Probably Renee (laughs). But both were great.

How was it working with an Oscar winner on your second movie?

Naturally I was nervous. (But Gooding) has so much energy, and when you first meet him, you kind of lose your nervousness, because he makes everyone feel so comfortable. ...

I remember talking to him about how, before he does a movie, he thinks about the smallest details, from the way the hair should be cut from the shoes ... for Jerry Maguire, he walked around like that character for a month, to see how people reacted to that. It worked (laughs).

Would you put on weight for a role?

Yes. Actually, I put on a couple of pounds (for Temptations) because when I did the test, my hair was straightened, it was blond, and they said that I didn't look like a mother, I looked like a singer. So I wore my hair (twisted) ... and I wore big dresses and I was heavier than I am now, a lot heavier.

Are you worried about the film's success?

Hopefully it will do well, but as far as box office, if it's not an incredible hit, I'm OK (laughs). I enjoyed the script, I enjoyed playing the part; hopefully I'll have many other movies to do.

Is there a certain actress whose career you would like to have?

As far as their longevity and as far as them being respected, probably Barbra Streisand, because I think she's one of the best singers and I think she did an incredible job in all the movies she acted in, and she's had a long career. ... (Also) I love and respect Halle (Berry).

Could you ever see yourself doing an erotic love scene like Halle's in "Monster's Ball"?

Well, when I do a kissing scene, (laughs) I feel so uncomfortable! I know right now I definitely couldn't because I'm literally embarrassed by the kissing scene.

Would you be worried about your image?

If there's something that's interesting, I don't care. If I'm trying to be an actress, I'm trying to be an actress; I'm not Beyonce when I'm acting. I'm whoever that character is, and that's the only way I can be taken seriously. There's certainly things right now that I would just not feel comfortable doing.

How would you rate yourself as an actress now?

I've only done two movies and I'm 21, and I've got a long way to go, but I think I did great at playing Lily.

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