Celeb Spotlight: Andre Benjamin

Age: 30

Hometown: Atlanta

Current gig: Playing a man determined to avenge his adopted mother’s murder in the drama Four Brothers

He bonded with his Brothers on the ice

Though Benjamin had never ice-skated in his life, he had to learn fast to portray an ice-hockey-playing former foster child in the Detroit-set Four Brothers. “I’m from Atlanta, and I don’t even get out in the cold. I hated it,” he says. “But by the third or fourth day I got into it and I started to love it.”

The rink was also where he got to know costars Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson and Garrett Hedlund, who play his adopted brothers and fellow revenge-seekers. “The bonding was natural,” says Benjamin. “It was just sitting around and talking and hockey practice.”

He takes acting seriously

Benjamin, who shares custody of his 7-year-old son, Seven, with ex-girlfriend Erykah Badu, has spent the past three years taking acting lessons. And it’s paid off: He scored a small role in 2003’s Hollywood Homicide and played rapper Dabu in the recent Get Shorty sequel Be Cool. Next, he’ll play a loan shark in the Guy Ritchie-directed crime drama Revolver and lend his voice to a CGI crow in the live-action version of Charlotte’s Web.

But some people still can’t envision him as anyone other than his wacky OutKast persona, Andre 3000. “A lot of casting directors may feel like they can’t see past the ‘Hey Ya!’ guy dancing around,” he says. “They probably don’t believe people will believe it.”

He loves being an OutKast

Despite rumors to the contrary, Benjamin’s hip-hop group (with Antwan “Big Boi” Patton) is still together. “We’re most definitely not breaking up,” says Benjamin. The duo’s sixth release, 2003’s double album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, is 10-times platinum and won three Grammys (OutKast now have a total of six).

Benjamin and Patton met as 10th-graders at Tri-Cities High, a performing-arts school in suburban Atlanta. Benjamin, the only child of Lawrence Walker, a collections agent, and Sharon Benjamin-Hodo, a real-estate agent, wanted to be an architect or an artist. But when he listened to music and began “seeing how terrible a lot of people were, I said, ‘Well, you know, if they can do it, I can do it.’ ”

Benjamin, who now splits his time between L.A. and Atlanta, left school in the 11th grade to pursue music full time. In 1993, he and Patton were signed to La Face records by Antonio “L.A.” Reid, and the following year released their platinum debut, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik. More hit albums, including 2000’s crossover success, Stankonia, followed.

OutKast are currently working on the soundtrack to their upcoming HBO musical, My Life in Idlewild, in which the rappers play musicians in the Prohibition-era South. And as friends, they’re as close as ever. “He’s just like my brother,” says Patton. “I’m his kid’s godfather; he’s my kids’ godfather. Our mamas (hang out) together.”

He’s a man of style

“I know the rules, but I don’t stick to them,” says the single Benjamin of his famously experimental taste in fashion – which ranges from platinum wigs and feather boas onstage to preppy argyle vests and saddle shoes offstage. “You have to funk them up.” His must-haves? “Hats and silk scarves. I have a couple from the ’60s and ’70s.”

And those who want to dress like him are in luck. “I’m starting a clothing label,” he says. “It’ll be clothes for people who love clothes. But nothing too crazy.”

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