Cynthia Erivo reveals words of advice from Bette Midler over The Rose role

·3-min read

Cynthia Erivo has revealed that Bette Midler advised her not to be afraid to “chew the scenery” and “dance every day” when she stars in the forthcoming remake of The Rose.

The London-born actress and singer, 34, has signed on to appear in a new version of the 1979 musical drama, which originally starred Hollywood veteran Midler, 75, in the lead role.

The original film was loosely inspired by the life of American rock and roll frontwoman Janis Joplin, who died in 1970 aged 27, and followed a self-destructive rock star struggling with addiction, the pressures of fame and her ruthless manager.

The 86th Academy Awards – Arrivals – Los Angeles
Bette Midler at the Academy Awards in 2014 (Ian West/PA)

Erivo said Midler had offered her words of advice over email after hearing she was taking on the part in the Searchlight production.

She told the PA news agency: “I was lucky enough to contact Miss Midler and she was really welcoming and encouraging.

“She emailed a beautiful email in which she said that she’s really excited and she couldn’t wait.

“And she gave me some advice. She said to breathe. She said make sure I dance every day, and make sure that I’m not afraid to chew the scenery. And she was just really lovely about it.

“She gave some really wonderful words and when that happens you sort of go, ‘Well, it feels like everything has come together in the right way’. So hopefully it does.”

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Erivo, who is preparing to release her debut album, said The Rose would allow her to explore different parts of her singing voice.

She said: “Searchlight came to us and asked – this is after I set up my production company – and they said, ‘Can you just have a watch of this film and see how you feel about it? We have the rights and are thinking about doing a possible remake’.

“And I watched it and fell in love with it because it felt so ahead of its time. I am a fan of Bette Midler and so I was just so surprised at how raw this was and how she had shifted and changed the sound of her voice, the way she was for this particular character.

“I saw an opportunity for myself to access places in myself and my voice that I haven’t accessed before and tried before. Because I know that I don’t think that this is an R&B piece. I think it really should remain a rock piece. I do think that there is a world in which I have to retrain certain parts of myself in order to play this.

“I love a challenge and to be able to do this and be part of the creative (process) is really, really exciting and special and Searchlight is an amazing studio space. They’ve done wonderful films and wonderful productions and I thought that this felt like a no-brainer to be honest.”

Erivo, who was raised in Stockwell, south London, found fame in the US starring in a revival of The Color Purple on Broadway, winning a Tony Award for her turn as Celie Harris in 2016.

She is also known for her Oscar-nominated turn in 2019 biopic Harriet, about American abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

Her debut album, called Ch. 1 Vs. 1, is due for release on September 17 on Verve Records.

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