To cast the ambitious film, Condon combined top talents from film, music and theater, with most of his first-choice actors happily signing on. With a nod to real-life, he cast multi-Grammy winner Beyoncé Knowles as Deena, the Diana Ross-like member of the trio who eventually takes center stage and becomes a huge star in her own right. Knowles' own career trajectory—starting with a little girl group called Destiny's Child and then catapulting into superstardom as a solo artist—brings some powerful layers to the Dreamgirls tale. The rest of the Dreams are Tony-winner Anika Noni Rose (Caroline or Change) as Lorrell, and American Idol's Jennifer Hudson in the pivotal Jennifer Holliday role of Effie. “The lovely thing is that each of these ladies brings something different to the party,” Mark says about the trio's diverse backgrounds.
Almost 800 women auditioned for Effie during a six-month, nationwide search covering eight cities. “Effie is the center of this story,” Condon explains. “She's the character that you embrace the most. Jennifer just turned out to be the ideal choice. She has very big shoes to fill—Jennifer Holliday's performance is legendary—and to her credit Jennifer [Hudson] doesn't do the same thing. She has made this part her own.”
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