So far, 2003 has been a very good year for Queen Latifah.
The actress/rapper/producer/singer has just received her first Oscar nomination for a supporting role in the hit musical "Chicago" and now she is the star and executive producer of a box-office hit.
In "Bringing Down the House," the number one film at the box office in its debut weekend, she plays a blind date that costar Steve Martin meets online.
"I play a character, Charlene Morton, who is actually incarcerated, but she meets Steve Martin's character Peter in this law chat room. He's a tax attorney. So they arrange this blind date," Latifah explains.
But she isn't the lawyer he thought she was. Actually, she is a fugitive from jail who demands his help to clear her name of a false robbery conviction. They soon change each other's lives.
"He's worrying about approval and Charlene doesn't really need anybody's approval. She's smart. She's a girl from the hood, but she's very smart. Smart enough to fool him into thinking she was a lawyer. So and he's recently divorced. And you know, kind of missing his ex-wife so she kind of tries to help him get his family back together," Latifah says.
Besides Martin, Betty White plays Martin's boss sister who lives just across the street. "She is off the chain," says Latifah about how hilarious White is. Eugene Levy plays another funny character in the film. "He loves a thick chocolate goddess. That's his thing. I got him saying all these words through this whole film that are so funny. I mean I'm giving him every slang word in the book to say. And he delivers them perfectly," Latifah says laughing.
As for Martin, he is just a pleasure to work with she says. "He's sort of shy initially. It seems. But he's so smart, so quick-witted. We had a ball. We got to totally act silly and fun and I think Steve did an amazing job in this movie. You know, when we thought about this script and whom we wanted to play Peter, he was at the top of the list. So to find out he liked it and he wanted to do it was like oh, yes!"
"Bringing Down the House" brought in nearly $32 million in its debut weekend. It was the third-biggest March opening ever, behind the 2002 releases, "Ice Age" and "Blade 2."
With an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination Queen Latifah is in Early Show anchors Hannah Storm and Rene Syler's mind the new 'it" girl. What does Queen Latifah think about that? "I'll be the 'it' girl. But my 'it' kind of stays around for awhile," she says.
Some Facts About Queen Latifah
- Born Dana Elaine Owens on March 18, 1970, in East Orange, N.J.
- Was a power forward on two state championship basketball teams in high school
- Queen Latifah worked at a Burger King fast-food restaurant and a Wiz in Newark, N.J.
- She formed a rhyming group, Ladies Fresh, with two high school friends who together they won a high school talent contest
- In 1987, Queen Latifah was "discovered" by MTV host Fab 5 Freddy
- As an 18-year-old, she released her debut single, "Wrath Of My Madness", in 1988
- In 1989, Queen Latifah released her debut album, "All Hail the Queen"
- Queen Latifah tried her hand in acting in 1991 with a guest spot in "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air"; she made her feature acting debut in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever"; and she had her first major supporting role in "House Party 2"
- In 1993, Queen Latifah made her first substantial feature dramatic role in "My Life"
- Queen Latifah was cast as a regular on "Living Single," a popular Fox sitcom from 1993-1997
- In 1994, Queen Latifah received a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance for "U.N.I.T.Y"
- On July 16, 1995, Queen Latifah was a passenger in a car that was car-jacked in New York City; her bodyguard was shot
- In 1996, Queen Latifah was arrested for carrying a loaded pistol, driving without a license and possession of marijuana; she received a fine and two years' probation in February 1996
- From 1999 to 2001, Queen Latifah hosted the syndicated talk show "Queen Latifah"
- From 2001 to 2002, the actress had recurring role as a psychic on the ABC sitcom "Spin City"
- In 2002, Queen Latifah appeared in the CBS mini-series "Living With the Dead," which was about real-life psychic detective James Van Praagh; she voiced a character in Disney's "The Country Bears"; she was cast in a supporting role in "Brown Sugar" starring Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan; and Queen Latifah was cast as Glenda the Good Witch in "The O.Z.," a hip-hop TV adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz"
- In 2002, Queen Latifah was cast in the musical feature "Chicago"; she received nominations for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for her supporting role performance