Oscar nominee Queen Latifah (Chicago) stars as legendary blues singer Bessie Smith in the HBO Films drama BESSIE, directed by acclaimed filmmaker Dee Rees (Pariah) from a screenplay by Dee Rees and Christopher Cleveland & Bettina Gilois. With a story by Dee Rees and Horton Foote, the film focuses on Smith’s transformation from a struggling young singer into “The Empress of the Blues,” one of the most successful recording artists of the 1920s and an enduring icon today. BESSIE offers an intimate look at the determined woman whose immense talent and love for music took her from anonymity in the rough-and-tumble world of vaudeville to the 1920s blues scene and international fame. Capturing Bessie’s professional highs and personal lows, the film paints a portrait of a tenacious spirit who, despite her own demons, became a celebrated legend.
You can tell when HBO is really proud of a production. There is big buzz about it and a plethora of video clips and sometimes even a special site surface. Such is the case with HBO Films: BESSIE. Our last originally crafted work was the well done HBO Miniseries: THE CASUAL VACANCY which had a trailer and an Invitation to the Set clip before it aired, but if you go to YouTube and look for BESSIE…well this writer stopped counting at TWENTY videos. Though we can’t offer up absolutely everything that has been generated we can single out a few clips.
One helpful set of clips are the BESSIE Character Spots highlighting the major players in the story of the “Empress of the Blues.” Here is Queen Latifah – “Bessie”:
We think you get the idea. A labor of love for the filmmakers, BESSIE has been 22 years in the making. The first draft was written by celebrated playwright Horton Foote. Queen Latifah was approached by producers Richard and Lili Fini Zanuck to take on the role of Bessie when she was just launching her acting career. She eventually came on board as an executive producer, along with producing partner Shakim Compere. Says Latifah, “I have been excited about this project since the very beginning. When HBO got involved, we were thrilled and we worked together to make something that would capture Bessie’s life honestly and respectfully.” HBOWatch will have more from Queen Latifah in a forthcoming post. We conclude with The Buzz: BESSIE Premiere.