January 9, 2009 at 1:00 am

Feb. 22, 2007

From the archive: 'Dreamgirls' producers apologize to Gordy

Published ad says movie pays homage to Motown but is still a work of fiction.

Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. has been quiet since the release of the Oscar-nominated movie "Dreamgirls," but that doesn't mean he didn't have an opinion on the film, or that lawyers haven't been busy talking.

Few dispute that "Dreamgirls" shadows in some ways the real-life story of how Gordy launched Motown Records in Detroit, and how the real-life Supremes came to fame. While the "Dreamgirls" musical was based in Chicago, in the film it's based in Detroit, and the three "Dreams," like their real-life counterparts, live in a Detroit project.

The character in "Dreamgirls" that most people relate to Gordy is Curtis Taylor Jr., the manipulative, controlling businessman who admits to paying disc jockeys to play his records, and tries to destroy the career of one singer (Effie) in his top girl group while romantically involved with another (Deena).

Wednesday, just days before Sunday's Oscar telecast, which will feature "Dreamgirls" performances and presumably, many awards, Dreamworks/Paramount placed an ad in Daily Variety publicly apologizing to Gordy:

"Dreamgirls is a work of fiction. It is also an homage to Motown. We used many wonderful accomplishments that belong to the rich Motown history. For any confusion that has resulted from our fictional work, we apologize to Mr. Gordy and all of the incredible people who were a part of that great legacy. It is vital that the public understand that the real Motown Story has yet to be told."

Speaking about the Taylor character, Motown singer Martha Reeves told The Detroit News in January, "That is not my Berry Gordy."

Singer Smokey Robinson came out with the most biting criticism, stating in a recent interview on the TV show "Access Hollywood" that the producers "owe Berry Gordy a public apology ... rapidly... It's like an insult to our intellect and our intelligence and our integrity and our leader and our love for each other and our legacy."

On Tuesday, Gordy's public relations firm PFA Media released a statement from him that said: "For the past 50 years, I have been protecting the integrity, the love and the talent that is and has become Motown's legacy. I applaud Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures for doing their part, to clearly differentiate the fictional movie 'Dreamgirls' from the real Motown. I wish them all the best in the forthcoming Academy Awards."

Why the gap between the release of "Dreamgirls" in late December, and the apology and Gordy's statement this week?

According to Gordy's publicist Paul Freundlich: "With the Motown artists, Berry is like their father in many respects. After the movie came out, Smokey and a bunch of other artists were pissed and they called him. Like a father protecting his children, it sort of spurred him into action. Nothing might have happened if his 'children' didn't respond the way they did."

The publicist said he wasn't exactly sure when the dialogue started between "Dreamgirls" producers and Gordy. "Obviously it was after the release of the movie, contact was made where the concern was voiced. From what I understand, this was all very amicable. The ad we see today was the result of those talks."