Starring Jordin Sparks, Whitney Houston, Mike Epps, CeeLo Green, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Derek Luke and Omari Hardwick, “Sparkle” arrives in theaters August 17.
This new version of “Sparkle” is an ode to the genius of the original 1976 movie, modified to the music, fashion, lingo and historical affects of the 1960s, while maintaining the emotional clarity and aspirational spirit of the earlier classic. The city has been changed to Detroit, the home of “Hit Factory” Motown, and the original struggling single parent is now an upper middle class family doing very well.
“Sparkle” is the story of three sisters who love each other fiercely, who each have their own dreams and ambitions, and who form a girl group as a way of capitalizing on the Motown sound sweeping the nation. And it looks like they’re going to take the music world by storm. But looming over them is the shadow of a strong mother who isn’t necessarily supportive of that dream, and hard realities about the spotlight that threaten to tear at the fabric of their tightly knit family.
Since “Sparkle” reflects the era of Motown, it was destined to be told in Motown, and Detroit proved to be a special place for the filmmakers, providing the ideal energy, character and hospitality for a movie set in a time of bursting-at-the-seams dreams. Though the beleaguered metropolis has seen better days, it was hard not to feel the magic that emanated so easily from this city less than 50 years ago.
Producer Debra Martin Chase called the decision to film in Detroit “one of those instances where art and business had a great marriage. Detroit was at the top of our list for location because of the history, because of Motown, because this was the center of Black music in the late ‘60s, and they have a great tax incentive program for filmmakers.”
Detroit had everything the location scouts were looking for. Fantastic buildings — nightclubs, theaters, homes — still existed from the era being recreated, foregoing the need for lots of new sets. Then there were the landmarks that added to the film’s authenticity: historical venues such as the Detroit Music Hall, the Opera House, and the Fillmore Theater were all used as locations.
A favorite locale for the production was Cliff’s Bell, a jazz club that has been a Detroit mainstay since the 1930s. “We’ve all fallen in love with it,” says Chase. “It’s speakeasy-like and still looks very authentic. We hang out there on our own because we love it so much!”
This colorfully imagined, thrillingly acted and musically entertaining film is led by an all-star cast carefully selected to ensure the originality of the movie was preserved, and also to bring a fresh perspective with new dimensions, twists and turns. The amazing cast starring in this music-themed drama includes Grammy-nominated, Platinum recording artist Jordin Sparks, multiple Grammy Award Winner Whitney Houston in her last film performance, Derek Luke, Mike Epps, Carmen Ejogo, Tika Sumpter, Omari Hardwick and Grammy Award Winner CeeLo Green.
Carmen Ejogo, who plays Sister, calls Detroit “a really special place. It has a very special energy about it. I got to go to the museum where Berry Gordy set up Motown. It’s quite an amazing place to visit and you really get a feel for the people that were there. I don’t think it could have been done anywhere else.”
All in all, Detroit was the perfect welcoming city for the “Sparkle” team. “People have been supportive and we’ve had a good time,” says Chase. “We have some big stars with us and people have been respectful and supportive, but not intrusive. It’s been great for all of us.”
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