I can’t pretend to understand how record companies operate. Here’s an interesting story I was told at the premiere of "Dreamgirls" on Monday night. It’s straight from the horse’s mouth, as they used to say.
“I’m spending my own money to make two more videos from my album.” That’s the word from Beyonce Knowles, the singing and now acting sensation who — believe me — holds her own very nicely in "Dreamgirls" as a Diana Ross-like character.
We were discussing the great song in "Dreamgirls" that was written for Beyonce — “Listen” — which should put her right on the performing stage at next February’s Oscars.
“Listen” is on Beyonce’s “B'Day" album as a bonus track, but you know, it’s going to be a hit when Sony releases it as a single to follow up her “Irreplaceable.”
But Beyonce has dreams beyond those two singles since the first two from "B'Day" failed. So she’s going to finance videos, she says, for two dance numbers from the album. Neither of the titles she mentioned though was “Green Light,” the track that should be a single.
As I told you yesterday, Beyonce was whisking boyfriend Jay-Z off for a birthday celebration Monday night. It was preplanned, so she missed the "Dreamgirls" parties.
Don’t worry; she’ll be at the one in Hollywood next week where she’ll meet real Supreme Mary Wilson, whose life inspired this movie. Mary is working for “Extra” as a correspondent, then going to the premiere and party as a VIP guest of Paramount Pictures.
And why not? Without Mary’s telling of the Supremes story — particularly Florence Ballard, who was fired and died in poverty and despair — there would be no "Dreamgirls" movie or musical.
But just wait 'til the clamoring press meets Ms. Wilson! She is the most beautiful, articulate, humble and knowledgeable Supreme, a real boon to the "Dreamgirls" publicity machine. Expect to see her front and center right through the Oscars.
(If you want to know the real story of what happened to the Supremes and Motown, get Mary’s book "Dreamgirl and Supreme Faith: My Life as a Supreme" and Gerri Hirshey’s informative "Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music.")
As for Beyonce, don’t believe those stories you’ll read in the tabs about bad blood between her and the other "Dreamgirls," or that Knowles isn’t a “star” in her own movie.
While Jennifer Hudson certainly has the showier role, Beyonce is a knockout in this movie. All four of the principals — including Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy — are going to be “overnight sensations” when the film opens in limited release on Dec. 15.
P.S. If Supremes/"Dreamgirls" fans are interested, they can buy "The Supreme Florence Ballard" as an import CD from Amazon.com. It’s worth it. Ballard, like fictional Effie in the movie, could have been a superstar.
Edie Sedgwick, the Paris Hilton/Lindsay Lohan-like bad girl of Andy Warhol’s world, may have been the inspiration for Bob Dylan’s classic song "Just Like a Woman."
The whole Dylan-Warhol connection is about to come up in George Hickenlooper’s movie, "Factory Girl," in which Sienna Miller plays Edie, Guy Pearce of "Memento" (in what’s said to be an Oscar performance) is Andy and Hayden Christensen plays a Dylan-like character named Billy Quinn.
Hickenlooper is said to have changed Dylan’s name because the rock laureate doesn’t want his persona sullied by the Warhol association.
But in Howard Sounes’ 2001 Dylan biography, "Down the Highway," there were plenty of references to this period of Dylan’s life. Indeed, Dylan visited the Factory at one point and did screen tests for Warhol’s crazy little movies.
The pair didn’t get along too well, but Dylan did wind up with a Warhol screen print called "Double Elvis." Warhol — who charged everyone for everything — wanted to impress Dylan so he gave it to him for free.
And here’s the rub: according to Sounes, when Dylan got the picture home he hated it. He traded it for a couch, which he got in return from his manager, Albert Grossman. In 1988, the year Warhol died, Sally Grossman, Albert’s widow, sold the painting for $720,000.
I guess Dylan is going to deny a romance with Sedgwick when "Factory Girl" hits theaters later this month. This should be interesting, since there are a lot of living witnesses.
But a few years ago, he also denied a relationship with Raquel Welch, even though the 1960s sex symbol confirmed it loud and clear. Hey, it’s a lot more interesting than what we have today in the pop world, like John Mayer and Jessica Simpson.
Don’t blame Robert De Niro if you don’t understand all the twists and turns in "The Good Shepherd." He didn’t write it, he just directed it. Eric Roth, author of the "Forrest Gump" screenplay, is the culprit.
De Niro does a fine job exploring the beginnings of the CIA with Matt Damon as his hero. De Niro only has one other directing credit — "A Bronx Tale" — but he brings out terrific performances from Alec Baldwin, Tammy Blanchard, John Turturro, William Hurt and even Angelina Jolie, even though the latter has developed some tics since winning a supporting Oscar a few years ago for “Girl, Interrupted.”
More importantly, De Niro brings Joe Pesci back to film after an almost 8-year absence. Pesci told me last spring he just lost interest in making movies.
But De Niro gives him a tasty little turn in “Good Shepherd,” in which the “Goodfellas” star winds up in the best dialogue exchange of the entire film with Damon. In this day of Mel Gibson and racial name-calling, the conversation they have really hits home.
"The Good Shepherd," in fact, is exceptionally well-cast. It’s like an old-fashioned New York movie, with loads of little parts for established actors.
Timothy Hutton makes a cameo at the beginning, for example, and there are plenty of familiar faces — character actors — taking small roles. Casting directors Amanda Mackey-Johnson and Cathy Sandrich did a great job populating De Niro’s world for him.
I don’t know how much of a hit "The Good Shepherd" will be, however. It’s nearly three hours long, and there are a lot of plotlines. Sometimes De Niro seems like he’s going for his own version of "The Godfather," with a grand epic sweep.
Fortunately, Damon is always interesting. As with "The Bourne Identity," he really carries the film from beginning to end. It doesn’t hurt that the cinematography is spectacular, and that every frame of "The Good Shepherd" looks sumptuous.