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Adrien Brody on Cadillac Records

Published December 4, 2008 in Movie Interviews
By Fred Topel | Images property of TriStar
Cadillac Records is the story of how Leonard Chess founded a record label and discovered acts like Muddy Waters, Etta James and Chuck Berry. In the movie, Leonard does it alone. Adrien Brody, who plays Leonard, paid homage to Phil Chess, who was not addressed in the film for storytelling purposes.

Adrien Brody Presses Cadillac Records

"Unfortunately poor Phil's history and involvement in the story is limited in this film," said Brody. "I think fortunately or unfortunately it had to be that way to tell this full story and to tell it from this perspective. It's not necessarily a story on Chess Records, for instance. It's really about the life and time of these artists and the complexity of their characters. So it wasn't that there was material in the script that was omitted, but obviously there's a lot of material that was not integrated into the script. Leonard brought Phil into the business and they kind of took over Aristocrat Records and were very successful, especially by having Muddy as their artist. Phil really was out there helping Leonard get other artists and really running the day to day operations."

The film shows how Leonard sometimes embezzled from his artists to keep the label afloat, but he tried to take care of them practically and emotionally too. "I tried to be true to what I felt the essence of Leonard was which was this guy who was very forceful and a hardened individual, but also he probably had compassion. There is a certain level of manipulation that I believe exists in all of these business relationships between artists and their bosses, in a way, because it's just ripe for that. I think it becomes more complex with the issue of race and the coming out of segregation and the lack of education. Muddy was illiterate. So there were all these elements that not only play into the reality of that, but the sensitivity to that, of an individual being manipulated. So all of that was fascinating and that's what I wanted to play, the emotional truth of that dynamic as well as the friendship and trying to go beyond that. That's what was interesting to me."

Cadillac Records PosterCadillac Records

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The acts on Chess Records were predominantly African-American, whether blues or soul or rock n' roll. The artists deal with racial issues in the film but Leonard never thinks about his pull towards their art. "I believe it was a time when there was a big movement, a big blues movement. There were a lot of artists coming up from the south into Chicago. So it was very present in that community, but there is something undeniably soulful, for lack of a better word, about the blues and what it stands for and the hardships that people are singing about and the truth and what it stems from, the transcending of pain and suffering, which is not uncommon to Jewish people and impoverished people. I think it was just something that touched him. He had an appreciation for it. It happened. It just kind of evolved from that."

As Leonard might have felt at home palling around with Muddy Waters et al, the set of Cadillac Records fueled some hyjinks as well. "We had to do this scene where Little Walter wanted a bottle of gin. He's like, 'Can I get some gin? Bring me a bottle of gin.' They had this extra there, this day player there who was real cool and he kind of like moseyed all the way down over to him to bring the gin and Muddy goes, 'Damn, motherf*cker walking so slow it looks like he's walking backwards.' That wasn't in the script and it was so funny. So funny. That's that truth, that organic thing that is just so wonderful and honest too. It wasn't even playing around. It was in character and it was perfect. Unfortunately moments like that aren't all in the movie either, but what that does is creates a real sense of community and joy and truth that we all vibe off of. It was a very difficult shoot. It was extremely, extremely tough to shoot so many musical pieces as well in such a limited timeframe. So when there's room for humor it really just helps. It helps."

Cadillac Records opens to theaters on December 5th.

For the trailers, posters and more movie info, go to the Cadillac Records Movie Page.

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Compiled By (Sources)
Fred Topel
Sources: Images property of TriStar

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