Queen Latifah fans have been waiting for the perfect starring vehicle for the brazen comic actress and may have found it in “Last Holiday,” a delightful reworking of the 1950 comedy that starred Alec Guinness.
In this version, Latifah plays a shy store clerk who thinks she has thee weeks left to live and decides to let her hair down in the interim by visiting a European resort where she effects those around her. Looking radiant and in top form, Latifah talked to Paul Fischer.
Question: Now were you attracted to this because the early scenes in the film were so unlike you?
Queen Latifah: It was it really was cause I am very energetic and outgoing and I have my shy side don’t get me wrong but I am not, I am not Georgia Burke I am more this girl that I am this girl, inside sometimes I am this girl but mostly I am that girl you know.
Question: So when are you that quiet in real life?
Queen Latifah: Maybe sometimes when I am in a situation that I have never been in or you know I kind of pull back a little bit to kind of observe things and then it doesn’t really last long though I’ve have to…I’ve resigned to myself to the fact that I have to be me you know…
Question: But do you get shy when you meet someone that you admire for example for the first time?
Queen Latifah: Yeah definitely.
Question: Like who?
Queen Latifah: Prince.
Queen Latifah: Yeah, I get shy around Prince like you have no idea. [Laughter]. I’ve met him a few times but he is still Prince to me I’m sorry but…
Question: Now I hear that your co-star Gerard Depardieu was almost trying to seduce you on the set ….
Queen Latifah: Yeah, I am sure he wouldn’t have minded you know [laughter] give a dog a bone
Question: How did you manage to succumb to his charms?
Queen Latifah: You know what I stay pretty strong because we just had a little fun together, we just had to enjoy each other. I’ll tell Gerard came on set when we had been shooting for a couple of months already and we had been in this town and probably it snowed maybe 3 weeks in a row everyday and he was just a breath of fresh air, just a breath of fresh air just all his French ways, his wine drinking and food tasting and you know just smoking a thousand cigarettes and feeling good and just robust guy who just enjoys life, and he came on our set and just really bought a light to us, a nice little boost that we all needed, it made us feel good everyday. So I mean I am so thankful for him he was cool.
Question: What would you do with 3 weeks to live?
Queen Latifah: I have no idea. I can only tell you what I think but I don’t know and I hope to never know for a long time.
Question: But no jumping out of planes or that kind of thing?
Queen Latifah: I might, I might. I always did want to jump out of a plane; actually I’ve always wanted to skydive so I might try it. I might try to do a couple of things that I have wanted to do maybe go to 1 or 2 places where I’ve always wanted to go.
Question: Like where?
Queen Latifah: India or Brazil, China, Africa and hang out with my family. I would probably take a lot of my family members with me as many as I could afford to and settle all the business of course, I’d give everything away…Give it all away no body fighting over anything I own because they’d own it you know.
Question: This is a movie about unfulfilled dreams in part…or this is a character that has unfulfilled dreams. Do you have any unfulfilled dreams?
Queen Latifah: The only thing left is to become a parent. A lot of the dreams that I set out to accomplish I have accomplished.
Question: That is one that you have to take care of soon right?
Queen Latifah: No, no so I am feeling the pressure at times.
Question: How long do you give yourself for motherhood?
Queen Latifah: Maybe 6 months get it going.
Queen Latifah: I don’t know, you never know.
Question: Who is the lucky guy?
Queen Latifah: Can’t say, can’t say [laughter].
Question: Is there anything that your character in the film is doing that you wish you could have done or that you’ve done in the past?
Queen Latifah: Well the idea of that has always been fun to me, and I’ve done that sometimes I’ve had to really go away by myself and just you know there is a place that I’ve gone here called the Ashram where you go…it is like a boot camp you kind of hike for 70 miles in a week and you do yoga and swim it is just really a place to come and detox you know.
You not only detox…I went there to quit smoking a couple of times. Last time it was successful but just to detox from Queen Latifah and Hollywood and life you know and kind of just when you have to just rely on…all you can do at the moment is breathe it kind of takes all the layers of crap away you don’t have time to thing about oh what do I have to do next week and oh so and so I forgot to call them back and I’ve got to take care of this, that, that and I know a lot of people who live by lists and if they don’t get that list done in that day they’re going nuts.
They are very ambitious people and determined people who you know want to do things and if they haven’t accomplished that then they are like beating themselves up and I can’t live like that, you know I hope to get the things I like to get done if not there is tomorrow you know what I mean. I can’t live by the list but sometimes it is good to sorta check out and find you centre again and then it just kind of invigorates me to…reinvigorates me to come on out here and just do what I do for another couple of years you know.
Question: You hike on your weekend, how many miles was there?
Queen Latifah: 70 miles a week.
Queen Latifah: Here in Santa Monica mountain range up there like Malibu and Calabasas…
Question: Are you with people or are you on your own?
Queen Latifah: Yeah with about 12 other people sort of camp style. All professional people many of them pretty affluent people, successful business people who all feel the need to check out from that stuff sometimes and leave that pressures of all the business that we deal and kind of be in the image of whoever they are at that place or with their families and sort of just be themselves.
I mean when you are trying to breathe like I said when you are hiking up this hill and you are just controlling your breathing and making sure you are drinking water you know you don’t really have time to think about that stuff or whatever you know contrive thinks are added on top of it go away, because now you are kind of back to the basics, everything gets back to the basics and start seeing what is really important to you.
Question: What keeps you grounded then, what keeps you aware of the fact that there is more to you than the image that audiences have of you and that the fans have of you?
Queen Latifah: There is a couple of things. One is God has always been in my life and his little voice in me that lets me know when I’m falling a little too far left or right, up or down you know. I know because there is a little voice that starts saying, ‘damnit what are you doing? You need to slow down with that’ or I might not be a good person to hang around you know. Okay you don’t want to listen well okay watch this.
So God will do this to me in some sort of way. Or something bad will happen to me I’ll you know break up with somebody or wind up with getting in trouble for something and not too much trouble where I can’t be rescued or saved from it but just enough to let me know that number one I am here because I was blessed to be in this position that I am not the only talented person you know. But that I was given the parents that I was given, certain friends and we’ve all been able to find our way here. This is one in a million shot you know.
So I always remember that it is not all me you know and that takes some of the pressure off, and then I have great family and friends that do not treat me like Queen Latifah you know. We’ve all grown with this thing, they have sacrificed part of there anonymity you know they’ve had to deal with rumors and things in the paper and they’ve had to take this ride along with and they’ve taken it and we’ve had a good time you know but when you go to your moms house and she is like okay take the dog out and you’ve got to poop scoop you know…scoop poop Queen Latifah come on Queen that is out the window you know. Queens don’t scoop poop.
So I am back to just Latifah or Dana you know and that keeps me pretty normal, and I actually enjoy that I am never really needed to be hang out with every celebrity in Hollywood and try to pretend all this something that I am not you know. I enjoy hanging out…to this day I go home I hang out… To this day, I go home and hang out with my cousins, my best friends. I’m not treated like royalty; they love me to death, but they don’t treat me like royalty. So it’s easy for me; they’ll tell me the truth, whether it hurts or not. And I need that; I’ve always been given that.
Question: What’s going on with your music career?
Queen Latifah: I’ve been working with some producers with a new album, kind of just writing and experimenting for where it all goes. I’m working with my background singers that I just toured with last summer, and a producer named James Poyser, and Amir from The Roots. Just kind of coming up with some fun stuff, and of course there’s some jazz. There’s selecting new songs of covers to do that’s sort of a Dana Owens 2 album. I’ve just been enjoying music, just having fun; I haven’t been thinking ‘How can I make a million dollars?’ which I never really do. But I’m really, really not, I just love it, I love music. I’ve just been putting studios together, here and at my house in New Jersey and so I can always make music and express my ideas and work with people to fine tune them to where they need to be, so I think by the spring…
Question: How different will it be? Will it show a new side to you?
Queen Latifah: I think it will, I think that’s where I’ve been moving to for a long time. I kind of hit a wall for a minute where I felt I wasn’t doing ‘me,’ and was making music for whatever that time and because of the pressures I might have been receiving. Everybody wanted something else, but I just can’t live like that; that was at the end of the 90’s. But since then, I’ve been doing jazz, and I can do that in my sleep. I love the Dana Owens album, I love the classics we selected, the songs we chose were ones that I really loved and I felt that I could really sing. I definitely want to more of that.
Question: Do you feel different than how you were two years ago, focusing on music and movies?
Queen Latifah: I still do; I think I’m a little bit. I’m thinking wanting to succeed is something in my DNA; I’m not like ‘I’ve got to succeed,’ I just don’t think about that. The Oscar thing with Chicago, I didn’t feel like ‘If I don’t win this Oscar, it’s over.’ I’m not that person; I see a silver lining in everything and I see a lesson in everything. So for me, I’m just trying to grow and learn and hope that I just continue to be myself and that myself is what people want, not some idea of who people want me to be. I just continue to try and build on that.
Question: What’s your next acting gig?
Queen Latifah: My next acting gig; I’ve got a couple that’ll be coming up, but I won’t know for the next few weeks.
Question: But you haven’t shot anything since this?
Queen Latifah: Well, we’ve got Ice Age 2 going on and then we have Stranger than Fiction later this year, which is Marc Forster’s next film.
Question: Have you seen any of it?
Queen Latifah: I’ve seen a bit while doing ADR.