Kelly Clarkson has never been more successful than she is right now, with her platinum-selling records, sold-out concert tours, multiple seasons (and two wins) on The Voice, new daytime talk show, and recently announced Las Vegas residency. And now, she has teamed with the Norwegian Cruise Line as the godmother of her own cruise ship, the Norwegian Encore. On Nov. 21, she will perform at the ship’s christening ceremony in Miami, and she’s even celebrating by awarding 20 deserving music educators with a seven-day adventure at sea.
But there was a time, shortly after she won the inaugural season of American Idol in 2002, that Clarkson thought her career was going to sink faster than the Titanic — when she was forced to star in the box-office-bomb movie musical From Justin to Kelly. In fact, she tells Yahoo Entertainment that she sobbed when she found out that the first Idol champion would be contractually obligated to star in the film, and she wanted to get out of it so badly that she actually hoped that she’d wouldn’t win Idol at all.
Although Clarkson’s career has obviously gone from strength to strength ever since, she was right to have fear about the possible negative effect From Justin to Kelly might have on her early chances for success. After all, the beach-themed teen flick was a critical and commercial flop, receiving 10 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a Golden Raspberry "Governor's Award" specially created in its honor. But it became a cult classic and later made it into Golden Raspberry Award founder John Wilson's book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made, and Clarkson appreciates it now, realizing that it is nostalgic coming-of-age viewing for many old-school Idol fans. She even insists that its (strangely never-released) soundtrack was actually “awesome.”
Clarkson has such a great sense of humor about the film, in fact, that when Yahoo Entertainment suggests that a From Justin to Kelly musical revue would make for perfect on-board entertainment for her cruise ship, she cracks up laughing and actually seems open to the wacky idea. Read on for her thoughts about From Justin to Kelly, her bond with her Season 1 American Idol castmates, and the pre-movie deal she brokered with Idol creator Simon Fuller than she think saved her career.
Yahoo Entertainment: OK, I have a weird suggestion for some entertainment for your cruise. On your talk show, you recently had original American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson on, and Justin Guarini was involved in the reunion too. So that had me thinking… there needs to be some kind of From Justin to Kelly spring break-style musical number on the cruise.
Kelly Clarkson: Oh my God! [laughs hysterically] You know what? I hate that movie, but that's actually pretty funny. There's got to be some kind of tie-in — because it's like the beach, on the ocean. That's amazing. Something funny has got to happen there. I'm totally going to work on that.
Awesome! But wait... did you just say you hate that movie?
Oh my God, with every part of my being!
I mean, I cried. I tried so hard to get out of that film. When we all made the [American Idol Season 1] top 10, they informed us that whoever won the show had to do this movie musical. And I was like, “I don't really want to be an actor.” Like, that's not a dream of mine. I came on a singing competition, and I was already worried about it. And then when it came down to the top two, Justin really wanted to do the movie and I didn't, so we were kind of hoping he’d win so I didn't have to! And then he loved it, so they were like, "Well, why don't we just make it the two of y'all?”
I cried so hard to get out of that. But in the contract I had to, because I won. And I love movie musicals — I have such an amazing amount appreciation for that kind of talent — but I don't feel like that's my talent, necessarily. So, you know, I was miserable shooting it, and I didn't want to do it. I thought it was going to ruin my singing career.
But many people now have a fondness for that film.
I get it. My nanny, actually, it was so funny when we hired her: It was like a year into working with me, and she owned up that it's her guilty pleasure to watch From Justin to Kelly. And I was like, "I am judging you on so many levels right now." I told her, "If you show my children that movie, I'm totally going to fire you!" [laughs] … I understand that it's one of those movies that has a little cult following of people where it's just nostalgic for them. It's kind of their Beach Blanket Bingo movie. For me, though, it just represents something totally different.
So you’re embarrassed by it, still?
I don't get embarrassed, because I've never had a desire to be an actor, so it's not like it embarrasses me in that sense. I just was so worried at the time that it was going to completely demolish any chance I had. I was already coming from a talent show — and everybody accepts it now, but I was the first one [to win American Idol] and everybody was not into it. Like, in the industry, it was really hard to be taken seriously as a singer. So I had already won a talent show, and I'm like, "Oh God, you're going to put me in this horrific movie written by the creator of Idol." [Simon Fuller’s] brother [Kim] wrote it. We shot it in like, 28 days. It just was not what I wanted to do. But I totally love it now, because it's funny.
Obviously the movie, even though it tanked commercially at the time, didn’t hurt your career at all.
Well, the only reason why I think it didn't is because while crying hardcore to Simon Fuller about the movie, I was like, “Can you at least let me have my first single, and then the movie can come out? Just let me have a chance, before this completely ruins my chances.” And he agreed for my first single, “Miss Independent,” to come out first. That song was my shot, and I'd written on it, and it was kind of different from what people, I think, were expecting from me. “Miss Independent” came out of left field and was No. 1 for an insane amount of weeks. So the fact that that song came out, and it hit right after “A Moment Like This” had hit, set something up for me. Therefore, when the movie came out, it didn't do as much harm. Literally that deal made, of me dropping my single before that movie came out, is what saved my career.
There was no soundtrack for From Justin to Kelly, right?
No, and that's the funny part — because that was actually the best part of the whole damn film! The music was actually awesome. I loved the music! Nothing was ever released from it and the movie wasn't great, but the soundtrack is awesome. I didn't understand that, but whatever.
Well, in all seriousness, when the three original Idol judges and Justin Guarini were on your talk show, it really whetted the public's appetite. Simon Cowell alluded to the idea that maybe there'd be some kind of project you guys would all do together, and I know fans would love to see that. Is there any talk about what that might be?
No, there hasn't been any talk yet, but it'd almost be fun to involve that on the cruise, like how you said… maybe the original cast, like the top 10 with the judges. Maybe there's something fun we could do…
Oh, wow — people would go nuts!
Because here's the thing. When you're a part of something like that, it's indescribable. I run into Jennifer Hudson or Clay Aiken or Tamyra Gray or Jim Verraros, or Ruben Studdard — like, any of the people that I know from Idol — and we have this kind of kinship that is indescribable. Coming from that environment, it's such a weird thing and it's hard to navigate, because while people are for you, they're also rooting against you. A lot of people they don't see it as a normal way to get in [show business]. That was especially the case with the first season. Nobody knew it was going to blow up. So all the judges, the contestants, we were all like kids at camp. I feel like we have a different relationship with not only the people I just mentioned, but with the crew. I see those same crew people at the Emmys or The Voice — the same sound guys that worked with me when I was 19 years old, on Idol, worked with me at 37 on The Voice.
I think because [American Idol Season 1] was so innocent and no one was entitled, nobody knew what was going to happen, we created such a cool family vibe. It just was different from any other season, because it was the first. And you know, that happens with any first season of anything, I'm sure. But that's why it was really important for me to have that [reunion on the talk show]. A lot of people are always like, "Oh, she's on The Voice now and she doesn't like Idol." That's completely not true, and I've never said that ever in my life. I totally love where I came from. I'm so thankful for it. I love the people that are a part of it. And I also love the people that I'm with now.
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