When Beyonce Knowles first auditioned for the latest Austin Powers movie, she was terrified. She brought her mother and didn’t even speak.
“Austin Powers in Goldmember” director Jay Roach says he wasn’t very impressed with the Destiny’s Child singer – at first.
“I held out for a while and was reading a bunch of other actress for the role,” Roach says. “I waited and then the casting director John Lyons, who actually spotted her, said `Please just see her.’ It was very late in the game, she was really shy, she was with her mom the first time I met with her and her mom got all the jokes and she kind of didn’t at first but she came back two weeks later and auditioned and she blew us away.”
The character of Foxxy Cleopatra was a combination of the brassy “blaxploitation” roles that Pam Grier was known to play.
“One aspect of the blaxploitation genre is the partner on a vendetta mission and Foxxy was a composite of women like that, a strong cool female lead,” says Mike Myers. “When Austin shows up in 1975, eight years after, Foxxy is mad. Eight years and no phone call, nobody stands up Foxxy Cleopatra.”
Myers was there for her audition and saw how Knowles studied the role.
The director recalls, “Mike is an intimidating guy because his brain just works like nobody else’s and she stayed right in it and did three takes and the third one was like, `That’s it, that could be on film. Right now I could put that on the screen tomorrow and it would work.’ She got the part based on a really kind of intense, excellent audition and she exceeded our expectations every step of the way. I think she’s going to be a huge star and we’re really lucky to be part of her beginning.”
Knowles says she credits her mother with getting her the part. She helped her understand the `70s black female role. “She knew I was excited and I would be nervous and she knew her child and I didn’t say anything. So I was like, `Mom, please come with me. I can’t think, I don’t know what to say.’ Oh God, I’m so happy for my Mom and they called me back for a reading with them,” Knowles recalls. “Mike was actually a little quiet and shy also. He told me he was nervous and I was like, `You have no idea what nervous is.’ Then we read and the chemistry was incredible between the two of us.”
She recalls her mother was fascinated with the “Foxy Brown” and “Cleopatra Jones” films of the past, and now Knowles appreciates the fashion, the psychedelic dresses and the hair, which is all coming back into style.
When dressed in the hippie clothes for the first time, she was stunned. “They put me in make-up and hair I said, `I am my mother.’ My dad saw me and he was like, `This is the strangest thing I have ever seen. You look exactly like your mother,'” she recalls.
Even veteran Robert Wagner, who plays Number Two in the film, was impressed with the new starlet. He says, “She’s got a career that’s going to be terrific and she is such a good soul. She is such a dear dear woman and the camera, my God, the camera loves her.”
Director Roach is even more laudatory: “She’s the absolute movie star, she’s hilarious, she can sing and dance, she can handle drama and has an emotional sweep, even in a comedy like this. It’s like watching Lucille Ball or Cameron Diaz when she did `The Mask.'”
But for Knowles, it’s all about her mother.
She smiles, “If it weren’t for my mom, I wouldn’t be in this movie!”