IAR INTERVIEW: Andre Benjamin Talks 'Jimi: All Is by My Side'

Tuesday, 07 October 2014 12:15 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR INTERVIEW: Andre Benjamin Talks 'Jimi: All Is by My Side'

Rapper turned actor Andre Benjamin, better known as Andre 3000, is one half of the extremely popular hip-hop duo OutKast. As an actor he has appeared in such films as Be Cool, Four Brothers, Revolver, Fracture, and Semi-Pro, as well as the groundbreaking TV series The Shield. Benjamin now takes on the coveted role of Jimi Hendrix in the new biopic Jimi: All Is by My Side, which opens in theaters on September 26th.

The film, which was written and directed by Academy Award-winner John Ridley (12 Years A Slave), follows the life of iconic musician Jimi Hendrix as he left New York City for London, where his career really took off. Imogen Poots (Need for Speed) plays Linda Keith, girlfriend of The Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards, and the woman who discovered Hendrix and encouraged him to move to London to become a solo artist. The film is basically “Jimi Hendrix Begins,” and tells the origin story of how he came to be the legendary guitarist that we all know and love. In addition to Benjamin and Poots, the film also stars Hayley Atwell (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Burn Gorman (The Dark Knight Rises), and Andy Buckley (Bridesmaids).

I recently had the pleasure of briefly speaking with Andre Benjamin about his work on Jimi: All Is by My Side. The popular rapper and actor discussed his new film, preparing to play Hendrix, how his research helped shape his performance, and the influence Linda Keith had on Hendrix’s life and career.

Here is what Andre Benjamin had to say about Jimi: All Is by My Side:

IAR: To begin with, what kind of research do you did in order to prepare for your role as Jimi Hendrix in Jimi: All Is by My Side? Did you watch footage of Hendrix playing guitar or listen to his audio interviews, and how did that help inform your performance?

Andre Benjamin: Honestly, I used everything I could. I watched any piece of Hendrix footage I could find. Every interview that I had never heard before, and even director John Ridley’s research team came and pulled interviews I had never heard. They gave me audio of Hendrix back stage I being interviewed by a magazine. I looked at pictures. I just dreamt it, like being a kid. Just looking at it and trying to see what he might even be thinking. I did weight training to lose 20 pounds. Hendrix was really skinny. I had a lot of guitar practice. I already had long hair, but I had to perm my hair in the way Jimi did because actually Jimi put rollers in his hair every night. That was his thing. I knew a wig would feel stupid so I just went for it as much as I could. I even tried to mimic walking, watching his mannerisms and the way he talks. It was kind of everything I could find. I threw it all into one pot and tried to give my interpretation of what it was. 

Finally, even has a Hendrix fan, I was surprised to learn from watching the movie that Linda Keith had such a huge impact on his career. Can you talk about Linda’s role in helping Jimi become a legendary musical icon?

Benjamin: Before we started the movie, I think one of the greatest things that John Ridley the director did was that we actually had the time to sit. So me and the female actresses, one of them being Imogen Poots, had time to go out and start to know each other so on screen it would be natural. In real life these women surrounding Hendrix completely made him. He would not be the Hendrix we know now if it were not for these women. To be honest, there were more women, but these were the women we are focusing on. A lot of people did not know that Linda Keith was Keith Richards’ girlfriend at the time. So she was in this rock world. She sees this guy playing at a club and she notices something about him, then she helps to get him where he is. Once he gets to London, he meets Kathy (Hayley Atwell). Kathy takes him around to all these places where The Rolling Stones shopped. All the cool stuff we see Hendrix wear, he did not come like that. People actually used to kid him about his clothes. He was always behind the times. They thought his hair was old and that he wore old clothes. He only had one shirt when he went to London, so he did not have a lot of money at all. He was a struggling musician. The cool Hendrix we know definitely has something to do with meeting those women. 

Jimi: All Is by My Side opens in theaters on September 26th.

To read our exclusive interview with Imogen Poots about Jimi: All Is by My Side, please click here

To watch an exclusive clip of legendary guitarist Waddy Wachtel and music producer Danny Bramson talking about creating the music for Jimi: All Is by My Side, please click on the video player below. 

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