Several different attempts have been made to produce a film adaptation of Dreamgirls, the Broadway musical loosely based upon the story of The Supremes and Motown Records, which won six Tony Awards in 1982. At one point, it was to be adapted as a star vehicle for Whitney Houston, who was to portray Deena. The production ran into problems when Houston wanted to sing both Deena and Effie’s songs (particularly “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”), and the film was eventually abandoned.
DreamWorks’ Dreamgirls adaptation came about after the film version of the Broadway musical Chicago was a success at both the box office and the Academy Awards.
Pre-production began with the intentions of casting Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy, both actors with record industry experience, as Curtis Taylor, Jr. and James “Thunder” Early, respectively. When offered the part of Curtis, Foxx initially declined because DreamWorks could not meet his salary demands. Denzel Washington, Will Smith, and Terrence Howard were among the other actors also approached to play Curtis.
While director Bill Condon had intended to cast relatively unknown actresses as all three Dreams, R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles lobbied for the part of Deena Jones, and was cast after a successful screen test. Upon learning that Knowles and Murphy had signed on, Foxx rethought his original decision and accepted the Curtis role at DreamWorks’ lower salary.
The most crucial casting decision involved the role of Effie White, the emotional center of the story. The filmmakers insisted on casting a relative unknown in the role, paralleling the casting of then-21-year-old Jennifer Holliday in that role for the original Broadway production. A total of 783 singing actresses auditioned for the role of Effie White. American Idol alumnus Jennifer Hudson was eventually selected to play Effie.
Hudson was required to gain twenty pounds for the role, which marked her debut film performance. To help her more fully become the “diva” character of Effie, Hudson was required to be rude and come in late both on set and off.
Beyoncé elected to lose weight to give the mature Deena Jones of the 1970s a different look than the younger version of the character.
Similar to the releases of older Hollywood musicals such as The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, and West Side Story, Dreamgirls debuted with three special ten-day roadshow engagements. This release made Dreamgirls the first American feature film to have a road show release since Man of La Mancha in 1972.
Dreamgirls received eight 2007 Academy Award nominations covering six categories, the most of any film for the year. But it was not nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, or either of the lead acting categories. Dreamgirls is the first live-action film to receive three nominations for Best Song. Previously the Disney animated features Beauty and the Beast (1991) and The Lion King (1994) had each received three Academy Award nominations for Best Song. Enchanted (2007) has since repeated the feat.
Diana Ross, long a critic of the Broadway version of Dreamgirls for what she saw as an appropriation of her life story, denied having seen the film version. On the other hand, Mary Wilson attended the film’s Los Angeles premiere, later stating that Dreamgirls moved her to tears and that it was “closer to the truth than they even know”. – Edited from Wikipedia