BURBANK, CALIFORNIA–All actors want to stretch a little, to find roles that allow them to show their skills and avoid stereotyping. Some people work harder at it than others. Chris Bridges, aka Ludacris, has taken it to a new level. The hip-hop star, who won raves for playing an arrogant rapper in Hustle & Flow and a Golden Globe as a member of the Crash cast, is one of Santa's elves in the Christmas film Fred Claus–a platter-spinning elf who plays just one song, Doris Day's version of a modern Christmas tune.
In a trailer on the Warner Bros. lot in Burbank, Bridges says that his previous movie roles had led producers to assume that was all he could do. "When you do a role like the guy in Hustle & Flow where you play an asshole, people will send you scripts and say, 'We want you to play this other asshole.' So I do different things because I want people to look at me as though I can do anything. I also love to surprise people and to continue to catch them off guard, doing something that is opposite of what I have been accepted as. I want to keep throwing people curve balls."
For the role in Fred Claus, he had to act against a green screen. His head was then superimposed on the body of a little person and his voice was altered to give it a high pitch. Surprisingly, he has managed to create similar illusions in videos on two previous occasions. He says that although the role was short, he was happy to work with the film's star, Vince Vaughn (Fred). (The movie, which opens on Friday [November 9] in Vancouver, also stars Paul Giamatti, Kevin Spacey, and Rachel Weisz.)
"When I read the script and saw what they would be doing, I was fine with it because I was a baby in a video, and then in another video called 'Roll Out', my head was too big for my body. I also liked the fact that my scenes were all with Vince, because he is pretty much the pinnacle of comedy right now. People like him make you work that much harder, and you learn a lot. It was like working with Don Cheadle and Sandra Bullock in something like Crash. You know you have to step up to the plate. That is the challenge. I think I am good with pressure, and that is why I love to act with these people."
Bridges was sent the script when the director, David Dobkin, read that he had once worked as a DJ for an Atlanta radio station. He needed someone to play an elf who plays "Here Comes Santa Claus" repeatedly, eventually precipitating a brawl with Fred Claus. Dobkin then asked Bridges to create a new version of the old song for the film's soundtrack, one that would be played during the end credits.
"I have great memories of being a DJ," he says. "I developed great relationships when I was up in the radio station because I met a lot of artists and I was able to ask how they got to where they got. It helped me to be more patient, because I felt a lot of artists weren't happy in their situations as far as record deals were concerned. So I started selling my CDs out of my car. I was also happy to do that song on the rolling credits because I was able to remix it and do a 'Ludacris' version, which was a lot of fun."
Bridges says he won't let his success as an actor get in the way of his music career. "I will always love music. I may not always want to be in front, but I think that I will be involved for the rest of my life because I own a record company. Even if it is just helping someone else out, I will be doing something, because that is what blows through my veins."