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CHICAGO - Q&A with Queen Latifah

CHICAGO Q&A from the New York press junket with Renee Zellweger, John C Reilly, Queen Latifah and Rob Marshall

Queen Latifah:

Did you always plan to play Mama Morton so sexily?

Yeah! It was written that way she has a little sexy number and Rob Marshall is the kind of guy to bring that out of you. He's like "Come on baby, sell it, you got this!" He's got a way of gassing you up. When it was time to shoot it all the rehearsal was done and we just went out there and had fun. It didn't hurt that we had all the dancers and actors from the stage show CHICAGO standing on the sideline saying "You did it girl!"

There are interesting differences in the casting of Catherine, Renee and yourself?

There are different flavours of sexiness, you can have choices in this movie. Whatever your thing is you got at least one to choose from with this film. I think it was a good way to go casting wise. To me though women are beautiful. Every woman is a queen and we all have different things to offer. Doesn't it look good to see all these different kind of women up there?

If you are a queen what is your kingdom?

My kingdom is Jersey. I'm the queen of Jersey and I'm trying to extend my territory, trying to rule the world eventually in a diplomatic way. But I ain't marrying no king. He has to marry me and then I make him a king. We are changing the rules, this is a different kind of royalty. You can marry a pauper and he becomes a king. As long as the love is there I'm cool.

How do you find time to do everything from rap and TV shows to movies? You seem to do everything except a newspaper delivery...

I used to want to do that. They make good money those newspaper boys. My mom wouldn-t let me ride my bike outside the neighbourhood. I have a great team, I don't do anything by myself. I have different agents who want me for five different things from endorsements, television, film, performances, appearances and they all work together. We try to map out what's coming up for at least the next six months. Then we try fill up the other spaces. Meantime I'm saying "Hit the brakes! Give me two weeks vacation! Don't call me unless it's an emergency. My mother is the only one who gets the number. I don't want to hear from anyone else till I get back from my vacation."

You have an album coming out for Christmas?

I got a greatest hits album coming out next week and my new album will be out on April 25. The girl will be back with the music. That's still my first love. The new album is called 'First Love', because it is. The more I think about it, the more grateful I am for music because it is my greatest release, my greatest form of expression to get out whatever's going on. Even if you don-t hear an album from me, I'm at home making music. I'm writing and releasing stress, energy, joy, anger, love, happiness, sadness whatever it is that I'm feeling. Me being here today is because of music. I feel for actors who have to start from scratch as actors because it is tough to break into this business. But luckily because I was in music I was able to get that first little one day job in JUNGLE FEVER with Spike Lee and that led to another and another movie. Then it finally hit me. I love doing this. This is my goal. I could do this like forever. As long as there are parts for me I can do this until I'm old and grey - as long as I remember my damn lines. So far, so good.

Do you want to do more musicals?

I heard my favourite musical, 'Willie Wonka And The Chocolate Factory', is being made and I don't know if there is a role for me. I love Willie Wonka, maybe it's the little kid in me, but I just hope they make more musicals, period. When I was growing up there were so many musicals you could watch. I like the fantasy of musicals and I love music. So to hear music in a scene is just as strong as seeing that scene being acted out. It takes you further into the mind of that character. Real men used to dance and sing, today they make it seem you have to be gay to be a dancer, but that's not the reality of it. It's ok, it's fine with me. But in the old days everyone had to sing and dance and that was the magic of these old films. They didn't have a studio to lay the song track down, they had to do it right there, on the set. Look at the Motown singers who just went from the top to the bottom of the song with the band playing and that was the record. There was a work ethic, you had to be talented because you had to do it and get it right one time. So to me if these musicals start coming back it'll put a little more challenge into the game. I would love to do the story of Bessie Smith because she had such an interesting story. I'm not a big blues singer so that would be a real challenge for me. But you know, I would love to play Sarah Vaughan and bring her story to life. And people keep coming up to me and saying I look like a young Pearl Bailey, so maybe her story would be interesting for me to take part in? But I also like fantasies like The Wiz, I would play the hell out of a big bad witch, or the good witch. I think I should play them both. It just opens up the world as little bit more for me, I hope they keep making musicals.

You look great as though you've lost a few pounds?

I have lost some weight since I did this movie. I was doing BROWN SUGAR at the same time as CHICAGO and only got to work out every once in a while. But once I finished CHICAGO I had about six weeks before starting BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE with Steve Martin and I felt like getting in shape a little more. It wasn't like I wanted to lose weight for the movie I just wanted to feel a little bit more comfortable in my clothes and feel a little bit more healthy. So I went out to Los Angeles and got a trainer and started working out. No dieting, I don't play dieting. I gave myself a year to get to my goal. Instead of crash dieting I'll just eat right.

What's your culinary weakness?

Baked macaroni and cheese, you put it in front of me - and it-s gone! I'm not a sweets person or into cakes and candies. I like a meal. I have tried a lot of different food. When I went to Japan I fell in love with sushi and in Europe I liked fish and chips. I could eat that hands down. But usually in England I go for West Indian or East Indian food or Chinese. I like the taste of food.

In CHICAGO you say something about after a little success you forget the people who put you there. Do you think that's true?

Some people do, I don't. A lot of people think they did it all on their own. In films there were some directors who took a chance on me, even though I hadn't been trained. They just saw some natural talent in me and gave me a shot. Then someone else gave a shot. Then I hired an acting coach because I wanted to get better. So there are a lot of people who helped make Queen Latifah who she is today. So I don't forget but a lot of people do and get big heads. My mom will make me walk the dogs or take out the trash when I go home. I'm not allowed to get a big head I've still got to do the simple things in life.

How did you get called Queen?

When I started making music I didn't want to be the same as everyone else. I felt like I wanted to come out kicking ass and I felt like all women were queens. We didn't treat ourselves like that though. We made bad decisions with men or in life and thought we were not beautiful when we were because some said you were too fat, to skinny or your butt was too big. We were tearing away at our self-esteem. So I thought if you think that you are a queen you are going to make people treat you like that and you'll start feeling like that. So that was the name that I chose and my mom laughed at me - "Queen? I'm the queen, I raised you." So she is the real queen and just lets me borrow the title.

What do you think about fame?

It has its pluses and minuses. The good thing about being famous is getting into clubs for free and you can get away with not getting a ticket when you are pulled over. But really being able to make appearances at schools where the kids have been doing volunteer work for the old or younger kinds - when you show up for them and it means something to them that's when the fame is good. When it intrudes on being a normal person that's when it's rough. When you make mistakes it is all over the world. Everybody falls down and gets back up. We fall down we have to get back up in front of CNN, NBC and Fox and all over the newspaper pages. When you are followed into a bathroom for an autograph that's when it becomes a little creepy. "Excuse me, you want to shake my hand? I haven't washed them yet."

The movie says that showbiz is the only place that you can work with someone that you hate and be happy, is that true?

That's absolutely true but not just in showbiz, though it definitely works in showbiz. I have been on sets with people who didn't like each other but they sucked it up because the show must go on. We learn to suppress our emotions, a lot. I usually get around with everybody but I have been around people who sometimes didn't get on with each other but they get the show done. So yes showbiz is that perfect field for people who hate each other. We need to get George Bush and Saddam Hussein in a musical and let them work it out.

Question and Answer text Copyright Buena Vista International