Interview: Paula Patton Talks About Outkast's 'Idlewild'

Patton Plays a Sultry Lounge Singer

HBO Films

Though the 2006 musical Idlewild was a box office bomb (it grossed just $12.6 million worldwide on a $10 million budget), the film is remembered by fans for two primary reasons: the music by Outkast (Andre 3000 and Big Boi), and Paula Patton's performance as Angel Davenport. In 2006, spoke to Patton about her role in the film:

The Story of Idlewild:

You have many different storylines happening but, overall, I think the real theme of the film is about people with dreams and trying to achieve their dreams.

Andre’s doing that, I’m doing that, Big Boi’s doing that in the movie. And I think people are mistaking it for a long music video because the visuals are so incredible. But I think what made Bryan Barber such an incredible director is that he was able to have such stunning visuals and yet piece it all together to create a real film that’s heartfelt, I think.

It’s a simple story about love and friendship. The name Angel Davenport speaks to the fact that all of us can be angels. She’s flawed but she’s an angel to Andre’s character Percival. She helps him see his talent and brings him out of his shell and, for that, he becomes a better person. He’s truly an angel to her because he sees the best in her, that fragile little girl, and gives her the strength to be the best she can be.

Paula Patton’s Inspiration for Her Character in Idlewild:

My inspiration was Lena Horne in Cabin in the Sky, a 1930s movie.

She’s a little bit more mischievous than I am in the movie but her energy, the way that she was a diva in that film, was something that I wanted to emulate in my character. She has this charm and this great smile, and yet she had a sort of wicked sense of something else going on behind there. My character does have a secret she’s carrying.

On the Set with Andre 3000 and Big Boi:

They’re huge stars and so it was a bit intimidating at first. But when I met them, they are so kind and so humble and I mostly did all my scenes with Andre. Andre was so generous with me. It was his first lead in a movie at the time and he made me feel like both of us were on this journey together. He was my confidante. We would talk about our nerves, our excitement and he made me feel as if no one had ever known his name before. And, of course, I’d go home and watch MTV and be like, "Who is this person?" He’s so fabulous. It was a really comfortable experience. No one made me feel like, "Who are you, kid?"

Patton on the Anxiety of Doing a Love Scene:

Well you always joke. There’s that countdown to the sex scene. Like, "Okay, five days until sex scene. No more carbs." There’s nervousness about that, but Andre really became my friend on the movie and he is just a gentleman through and through. Of course, when you are nearly naked... I just had strategically-placed nude items…it’s nerve-wracking. But Bryan set up a good situation in that the lights were low, which we all know is always good in a love anything. He had about five cameras set up so we didn’t have to do tons of takes.

We just sort of did it and we caught pieces. The end results are beautiful images that are pieced together to create something that’s not vulgar. Hopefully, my mom will not die at the screening. I’m telling her to close her eyes.

Working with Writer/Director Bryan Barber:

It wasn’t at all like working with a first time filmmaker. He had such a singular vision and he knew how to execute it. It’s one thing to be on the set watching it all happen, it’s another thing to actually watch the movie finished. Then, you stand in real awe of what he’s done. All the little effects, the cartoon, the talking flask and things he does with black and white and moving in and out, just incredible things. I sat and thought, "He’s a genius. He’s done something truly incredible." I’m in awe of him.

On Her Singing Being Dubbed:

You’ve taken my secret and put it out there to the world. I am not a singer, unfortunately. Angel Davenport has a big musical number and she needs to sound amazing when she comes on stage, like an angel. Unfortunately I sound like a frog, but I love to sing in the shower and in the car. I just wasn’t gifted with that talent for singing so, luckily, they were able to let that slide.

I still get butterflies before having the first day of a movie. When you walk in and do an audition, there’s always that moment where you are put on stage and giving all your talent for people to either say, "That sucks" or "That’s great." It’s nerve-wracking. I totally relate to Angel being on stage and being nervous. Especially because Angel was kind of like I was at the time: a fish out of water. I was given this great opportunity to be a lead in a movie with very little experience and I had a lot to prove, and just hopefully not get fired. Every day was just, "Don’t get fired," so I can really relate to that moment of fear before you have to show everybody what you’ve got.

Edited by Christopher McKittrick

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Murray, Rebecca. "Interview: Paula Patton Talks About Outkast's 'Idlewild'." ThoughtCo, Dec. 8, 2016, Murray, Rebecca. (2016, December 8). Interview: Paula Patton Talks About Outkast's 'Idlewild'. Retrieved from Murray, Rebecca. "Interview: Paula Patton Talks About Outkast's 'Idlewild'." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 25, 2017).