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Patti Cake$ was a big hit at Sundance. Fox Searchlight bought the film and will put it out in theaters. Danielle Macdonald is the breakout star as Patricia Dombrowski, an aspiring rapper in New Jersey. Macdonald is Australian and shared how she became Patti Cake$.
“I had never rapped,” Macdonald said. “I just got asked to come to the [Sundance] labs. I read the script and I was like, ‘What?’ I can’t rap. I can’t do a Jersey accent. I’m the furthest thing from this person imaginable. So I have no idea what he’s seen me do that makes him think I can do it. I just decided to do it anyway because it sounded terrifying, but also really great. We practiced for two years. He would send me a rap every week. I would sit in my close and just try and learn how to do this rap in one take.”
Writer/director Geramy Jasper turned his love of music into his first feature film. “I come from a music background so I have been writing or recording music for over 20 years,” Jasper said. “I wanted to write my first film but I decided the easiest way to do it was to make it sort of a musical. I knew I can get a lot of screen time if I filled it with songs that I had been writing secretly for many, many years. I love, love, love hip hop music. I have since I was eight years old but I needed to create a character who could actually perform. I felt like some sort of weird Svengali. That lived in my heart and Danielle brought her to life.”
The music in Patti Cake$ is not solely rap though. Patti’s mother Barb (Bridget Everett) is a rock n’ roll singer and covers classics in her own way. “It’s all the music that I grew up with and all the music that surrounded me growing up in New Jersey,” Jasper said. “New Jersey has kind of a rich underdog musical history. Obviously Sinatra, Bruce, Pati Smith’s from there, Bon Jovi, Skid Row. Hardcore bands and amazing rap groups all come from New Jersey. Naughty By Nature, The Fugees, Redman, the list goes on and on and on and on. I wanted it to be a musical movie. Every generation has their genre that people are obsessed with so each one of these characters has their own genre that they stand for. I just wanted to mix it all together into a collage.”
The mother/daughter relationship between Patti and Barb is the heart of Patti Cake$. Everett said that was real. “You can tell right away, you meet Danielle and you fall in love with her,” Everett said. “I was so nervous to do this thing. I’ve never really done this kind of business before. I was sitting at the lunch table by myself and Danielle sits next to me and she’s like, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ I saw right away she’s an open heart and a really special person so it was easy for me.”
Look for Patti Cake$ in theaters this year.