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Dreamgirls Director Bill Condon Reflects on the Film's Legacy 10 Years Later

Dreamgirls Director Bill Condon Reflects on the Film's Legacy 10 Years Later

Getty Images for IMDb

"I do think we live in a world where the critical community, especially with movies, is still dominated by straight blogger boys."

Today, the Director's Extended Edition of Dreamgirls comes out on Blu-Ray and DVD, 10 years after the Oscar-winning film took the breath of commercial and critical audiences alike. The new extended cut features never-before-seen scenes, as well as audition and screen test footage from Jennifer Hudson, who won Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for her role.

To celebrate the film's legacy, we sat down with openly gay director Bill Condon, who, in addition to directing Dreamgirls, won an Oscar writing the screenplay for Gods And Monsters and was nominated for his script of Chicago. In the past 10 years, he's directed notable blockbusters like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2, as well as the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast.

Speaking with Condon, we discussed everything from making stage musicals work on camera to homophobia embedded within the critical film community to Jennifer Hudson filming "And I Am Telling You."

OUT: Its been 10 years since Dreamgirls came out, and the extended edition is about to be released on Blu-Ray. What scenes and moments from the filming process have stuck with you for the past decade?

Bill Condon: There's one that's in in the new extended edition--it's a song I love from the show called "Effie Sing My Song." It would always make me cry. When putting together the movie initially, it was well over two hours. As you know there's so much great music, but there's so much of it for a film audience, so we cut characters down and had to be able to tell the story visually. The movie could do without it, but I just remember shooting it that day--it was Keith Robinson and Jennifer Hudson, and they were just so talented. They sang it live. That is a great memory for me and I'm thrilled to have it out there in the movie now.

Do you have a favorite scene from the theatrical cut?

I almost feel like I have a favorite for each character, but the preamble to "And I Am Telling You" was so dynamic when we were shooting it.

That must have been difficult to film with so many people.

Yeah, and we did it in the last week, so people were over-extended and worn down--not on edge, but still, it felt like, it was like everyone's defenses were down.

If you could go back, is there anything you would change about the film?

I don't think anyone has ever asked me that, so I have to answer it honestly, and that is yes. I think that people who loved the show have complained about this, that on stage people sang performance numbers and also sang book numbers--it was a pop opera, where they sang the dialogue, and I think that would have been interesting. I could have introduced more of that vocabulary earlier, and maybe a little more frequently as the movie progresses. I pulled back on a lot of that. I think it was the right thing to do, but if I'm honest, I think there were two or three minutes of the movie that I would look at again and try to have people change.

That's interesting because in Chicago, for instance, the music is all in a sort of this vaudevillian alternate universe, but in Dreamgirls it all blends into the real world.

That is a challenge. I think with Chicago, that's what made it so much easier for people to accept. It would be much harder to accept that Richard Gere had started to sing to somebody in reality. But in Dreamgirls you had to accept that, because then "And I Am Telling You" isn't going to just be a performance number. This is Effie pouring out her heart to Curtis. These are conventions now that have been reintroduced to the audience, so that's no issue. The other thing about Dreamgirls is it isn't a musical comedy, it's a musical drama. It needed to be real. It's not Hairspray, frankly, which is already in a world where you can accept things more easily. That was the challenge of Dreamgirls.

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As a gay filmmaker, did you predict or intend to have such a big impact on the queer community with your work?

I'd say yes, in some way that's not conscious, but as you said I'm a gay filmmaker and I'm making these movies out of love for the material, characters and also the form. I do think we live in a world where the critical community, especially with movies, is still dominated by straight blogger boys, and I feel like things that we take so seriously and that we love so much, I think that there's still a way for those people to express a kind of homophobia in their dismissal of it. You know, in Beauty and the Beast... Christopher Nolan is allowed to go on endlessly about his version of Batman, what is his version of Batman, what's his suit going to look like? That's a boy thing, that's what they love. But if you talk about the intricacies of figuring out that yellow dress for Belle, that's just silliness. It doesn't matter. So yes, I take great comfort knowing that [my] movies are made for the bigger culture and yet they're also understood in a very different way by gay culture, by queer culture.

With Beauty and the Beast, there was the whole controversy about LeFou being gay. Some people thought it was too much, while other people thought it wasn't enough.

That I think is a whole different issue, almost. What I read a lot is that the whole movie was too much. And I always read that as meaning "too gay." I think it makes people uncomfortable still.

The director's cut of Dreamgirls includes a few extended scenes, as well as Jennifer Hudson's audition tape. When you first watched it, did you have any idea it was going to be an Oscar-winning performance?

All I knew is you can get a lot of other stuff right, but if you don't get "And I Am Telling You" right, if that song does not blow you away the way that song has to, then nothing else matters. That's how important that decision was, and that how once you think "Oh my god she could do it," then you think "Oh my god she could have a big impact."

You've done so many different kinds of movies and worked with so many huge stars. What kinds of people are you looking forward to working with in the future?

Matt Damon is an actor I would really love to work with. And Shirley McClain, who I fell in love with when she was in Sweet Sweet Charity, which I saw when I was a teenager. There are so many. You only get a limited amount of time and there are so many great people to work with, but those two come to mind first. As far as story goes, I always have four to five things in my head. I've always loved Hitchcock movies and although I've done some suspense and kind of horror, I'm working on a movie that's kind of in that spirit.

Purchase the new Director's Extended Edition here, and watch the trailer below.

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