Movie Club Weekly – American Film Institute

July 2, 2020




DREAMGIRLS received an AFI AWARD in 2006 – recognizing it as culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image.

Did you know?


DREAMGIRLS is based on a hit Broadway musical that opened in 1981 and won six Tony Awards. It was inspired by the careers of singer Diana Ross – who replaced her longtime friend Florence Ballard as the lead singer of The Supremes – and Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.

DREAMGIRLS is dedicated to Michael Bennett, the director and choreographer of the original stage musical. Bennett was best known for his breakout Tony Award®-winning work as the original director and choreographer of the box-office sensation A CHORUS LINE. Although Bennett intended to helm the film adaptation of DREAMGIRLS, he died at the young age of 44 from AIDS-related causes.

Music industry mogul David Geffen, who is responsible for albums by artists such as John Lennon and Nirvana, first ventured into theater production with DREAMGIRLS. He co-financed the musical and subsequently purchased its screen rights for $1 million. When its director and choreographer Michael Bennett died young, Geffen vowed to preserve Bennett’s distinctive influence on the show.

For nearly 20 years, Geffen turned down proposals that did not align with Michael Bennett’s vision. It wasn’t until the success of CHICAGO in 2002 that he found the right artist to helm DREAMGIRLS – director Bill Condon. Geffen declined to take a producer credit onscreen and declared that the project would be his last feature film.

The stage musical de-emphasized the true story to protect the celebrities’ privacy and to avoid political controversy. When the musical’s producer, David Geffen, and writer Bill Condon first met to discuss the movie adaptation, they decided to restore a greater emphasis on its inspiration – and to set the story in Detroit, against the provocative backdrop of the Civil Rights movement.

Before Bill Condon took on the adaptation, other directors hired at various points in development included Spike Lee, Frank Oz and Joel Schumacher.

Although the film takes place in Detroit, New York and Miami, it was shot in and around Los Angeles. The luxurious Hollywood mansion belonging to Curtis and Deena was filmed at an estate owned by Frank Sinatra in Chatsworth.

DREAMGIRLS marked Jennifer Hudson’s feature film debut. Hudson was selected from over 700 actresses for the role of “Effie” and won an Oscar® for Best Supporting Actress!

Costume designer Sharen Davis created 120 dresses for DREAMGIRLS, as well as dozens of suits for the leading men. She found inspiration in the styles of Cher, Aretha Franklin, Prince and Marvin Gaye. Director Bill Condon called Davis one of the movie’s primary storytellers, and her work on the film resulted in her second Oscar® nomination.

Paramount and DreamWorks mounted an advertising campaign that underwrote licensing fees for all high schools, colleges, community theaters and any other non-commercial groups to produce the stage show. When DREAMGIRLS was released in December 2006, more than 50 productions of the show had been staged around the country, thanks to the promotion.

DREAMGIRLS was nominated for eight Oscars®, including Eddie Murphy’s only Academy Award® acknowledgement to date. Murphy won a Golden Globe that year for his performance, which was one of the film’s four Golden Globe wins, including Best Picture—Musical or Comedy.

The movie doesn’t end at the credits. Engage with your family, friends and others like you who love the movies. Check out the AFI Movie Club Discussion Questions for this movie and post your responses in the comment section!


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