Outkast's André 3000 (real name: André Benjamin) didn't have to physically change much to play Jimi Hendrix in the film Jimi: All Is By My Side—he didn't even have to wear a wig! But as a Southern-born-and-raised musician, mastering the accent of the Seattle native was a bit more difficult.
As Benjamin tells Terry Gross in this Fresh Air interview, he adopted some rather unorthodox methods for nailing Hendrix's distinctive voice:
There were certain vocal exercises that I learned from my vocal coach even at one point in time I was walking around with a wine cork in my mouth and speaking with the wine cork because Jimi, he protruded his mouth forward and he talked with a lisp, kind of.
So I had to try to mimic that kind of thing. A funny thing is, I tried to find like a, I guess a meeting point to something that I was familiar with in Hendrix, and there's a cartoon character called Snagglepuss.
When I was a kid there was this cat that he would say, "Stage left even." And to me it was Hendrix-y and so every time we would get ready the set, you know, you would hear the "Stage left even." You know, that was kind of my thing to get into, you know, the Hendrix voice.
However, the voice wasn't the hardest thing he had to learn for the role. Benjamin plays the guitar right-handed, and Hendrix was a lefty.
When it came time to do the left-hand thing, I almost had to [do] finger choreography, learning where the chords are, learning the actual chords of the song with my left hand, learning where the notes are, learning how my fingers should lay. But it was really, really difficult, because it's almost like walking backwards and making walking backwards look normal.
The interview also goes into plenty of detail about how the filmmakers were able to get around the fact that the Hendrix estate didn't allow them to use any songs Jimi wrote (the good news: he performed lots and lots of covers). The film is in theaters now. [Fresh Air]
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