Aaliyah (Interview)

Last week Aaliyah made music history when ”Try Again” — from the soundtrack to her acting debut, ”Romeo Must Die” — became the first song ever to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s pop chart without being sold as a single. (Billboard uses a combo of radio airplay and singles sales to determine chart position.)

It’s been a good few weeks for the 21 year old, who on June 7 signed to play the title role in Warner Bros.’ update of the ’70s girl group cult film ”Sparkle” and last month agreed to star as the titular vamp in the same studio’s adaptation of Anne Rice’s ”Queen of the Damned.” Says ”Sparkle”’s coproducer Debra Martin Chase: ”When we approached Warner Brothers about doing the remake, they had begun to see the dailies on ‘Romeo Must Die,’ and they knew they had a star.”

A moneymaking star at that. ”Romeo” grossed $55 million at the box office — an impressive number given its $25 million budget. But will Aaliyah’s newfound success as an actress mean that her songbird days are over? ”It’s hard for me to say whether I would choose to do movies over music,” she says, ”because acting is something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time.”

Aaliyah had been getting script offers for the last two years, but until Warner came calling with ”Romeo,” she didn’t ”feel ready” to make her big screen move. ”I wanted to establish myself as a musical artist first and then move into films,” she says. But after two platinum albums — her debut ”Age Ain’t Nothin’ but a Number,” which was released when she was 15 in the pre- Christina and Britney days of 1994, and its followup ”One in a Million” — she was ready to play Trish, the Mob boss’ daughter in ”Romeo,” who gets to kung-fu-kick some serious ass.

But with her imminent movie plans — ”Queen” starts shooting Aug. 21 in Australia, and ”Sparkle” is in ”priority development” for a start date next year — music fans may have to wait until 2001 for the full length followup to the now four year old ”Million.” ”I have a few songs I’m happy with,” she says, ”but I want to go back and rework a lot of things, so I really don’t know how it’s gonna sound by the time it comes out.” A little advice: make it at least half as catchy as the record setting ”Try Again.”


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