Andre Benjamin, AKA Andre 3000
The Voice & Face Behind Idlewildby Wild About Movies publisher, Tim Nasson
August 25, 2006
Los Angeles – Known to more than a billion fans around the world, (including a United States Republican president’s daughter, Jenna Bush, who quoted "OutKast" as her favorite group, on stage, and in front of millions of viewers, during a national, prime time telecast at the last Republican National Convention), as Andre 3000 – half of the superstar singing sensation, "OutKast," – Andre Benjamin would rather be called by his real name, now – now that he is a certifiable movie star.
The suave and sexy, thirty year old black rapper, who designs many of his outrageous costumes – used only on stage – seems to be dividing his time between the recording studio and sound stages of movie studios.
After a small role earlier this year as Dabu, a trying-too-hard gangster in the comedy "Be Cool," and a lead role in director John Singleton's "Four Brothers," alongside Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese and Garrett Hedlund, the 31-year-old Georgia dude is starring and singing in the current big screen release, "Idlewild."
"Even before I was doing music, I was in drama troupes and doing stage plays before I started doing the OutKast thing. Once we started doing (music) videos, I would get calls from directors and producers. So I would go out to L.A. a lot and I started spending a lot of money on hotels and plane tickets, so I moved to L.A. because it was cheaper. Once I started doing that, I met with a lot of movie people in Hollywood and started getting jobs. Actually before I started getting jobs I took acting workshops and classes. Once I started getting into character I started to like it and like the challenge of getting into character.
"Acting in movies, now, for me, is an offshoot to acting on stage during a concert. I love dressing up and during all of my shows, on stage, it is like one big movie set. I am in a different world when I am on stage. There is sometimes a perception that I'm this wild and crazy guy. I'm the total opposite. Andre 3000 is a character in itself. I made him up. It takes a lot for me to do that. When you see me perform on television or award shows I have to get into a certain frame of mind to do that type of stuff. It's not the easiest thing in the world. Sometimes I get tired of doing it," says Benjamin, in a suite at The Four Seasons at Beverly Hills.
The fact that Benjamin is on a second yet different path to superstardom, that of movie star, shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows him. "I'm totally not the entertainer type. I never thought as a kid that I would be doing music as a career and I really don't consider myself a musician. When I meet other musicians and they tell me they have wanted to do this their whole lives, I can’t relate to them. I really haven't wanted to do this my whole life. I'm just really grateful. I think that humbles me because it's really a blessing."
Set amidst the backdrop of a 1930s southern speakeasy, "Idlewild" follows two characters, Percival (Andre Benjamin), the club's piano player, and Rooster (Antwan Patton), the club's lead performer and manager, through intersecting stories of love and ambition.
"I wrote all of the music in ‘Idlewild’" says Benjamin, with a smile. "There are a bunch of new "OutKast" songs in the movie, but songs that fit into a 1930s movie. I love challenging myself."
Later this year, Benjamin will be heard and not seen on screen, in the Paramount Pictures updated version of a childhood classic, "Charlotte’s Web." Dakota Fanning plays Fern, in the film that was filmed in "Babe" style; real animals, real people, but animals who talk with the help of computer animation.
"I have a kid of my own, and wanted to do something for him," says Benjamin, of his son with fellow singer, Erykah Badu.
Don’t rule out yet an additional career path for Benjamin. While he already designs many of his own clothes, he hopes it does not stop there. "I would love to design a brand of clothes that could be sold and worn, worldwide."