Starring: Adrien Brody, Beyoncé Knowles, Jeffrey Wright
Directed by: Darnell Martin
Release date: December 5
When she was offered the plum role of legendary singer and onetime heroin addict Etta James in Cadillac Records, Knowles had no doubt about her answer: No. ''It was my mother who talked me into it,'' recalls the pop superstar, 27. ''I said, 'Mom, I'm supposed to be doing my record''' her forthcoming double album, I Am...Sasha Fierce. '''I don't think I have the time.' She was like, 'Just read it.' And once she got it in my hand, I said, 'I have to be a part of this.'''
The film, which follows Chicago-based Chess Records in the 1950s and '60s, also stars Wright as Muddy Waters, Mos Def as Chuck Berry, and Eamonn Walker as Howlin' Wolf. Brody plays label founder Leonard Chess, whose penchant for gifting his artists with automobiles explains the title. ''That's how you got paid,'' explains writer-director Martin (Their Eyes Were Watching God). ''In Cadillacs. Muddy Waters said that if you stuck around long enough, everybody got one.''
Martin had Knowles in mind when she wrote Etta James' part and says she couldn't be happier that the singer listened to her mom's advice. ''She was like, 'I want to get down and dirty,''' says Martin. And thanks to makeup artists, that's exactly what Knowles did. ''During the heroin scenes, we had the track marks,'' says Knowles. ''They drew a lot of bags and imperfections. I wanted to show that. I think people are going to be really surprised.''