A quick recap, catching you up on what we’ve known until today…
It was announced in October that Spike Lee would have to, once again, sit back and watch (this time) Tate Taylor (director of The Help) helm a James Brown biopic, with super producer Brian Grazer producing, and Mick Jagger joining Grazer as producer.
You’ll recall that a film based on the life of the singer has long been in the works, with Spike Lee long-attached to direct, and Brian Grazer overseeing the production. Obviously, something happened, since Spike is no longer attached to direct, but Brian Grazer is still on to produce.
Grazer ended all the suspense and speculation when he revealed in January of this year, reasons for Spike Lee’s exit, stating:
He was the choice when I had the rights. I had just produced ‘Inside Man’ with him. When the rights left me, I didn’t have any control, and I couldn’t make director choices. So when it came later with new people and new rights holders, we weren’t doing it with Spike Lee anymore. The world was different then. Now you have to make movies for less money.
And in response to the black blogosphere’s negative reaction to Spike Lee’s outing, Grazer added:
What would I say? I view that a bunch of different ways. Mick and I don’t see the world that way. I started my career making Boomerang and CB4. I’ve made so many movies where I’ve supported black artists. Tate made The Help, and that had almost an entirely black population. I just want to try to make the best movie.
After reading all that, what I gathered from his response was that the choice for who to direct was out of his control, after James Brown died, and the rights issues became more complicated as they now fell under a different set of rights-holders, who, we can assume, didn’t want Spike Lee to direct. Why exactly, we don’t know. All we can do is speculate even further. While we got answers we didn’t have before, the answers themselves raised even more questions.
Skip ahead to today, with news that Tate Taylor has revealed that he’ll begin shooting the film this fall in Mississippi, including filming at the Mississippi Coliseum on the state fairgrounds, where Brown performed a concert in February 1969.
With a fall shoot start date scheduled, with fall right around the corner, I can only assume that they’re closer than ever to nailing down an actor for the starring role, and we’ll find out very soon. I have absolutely no idea who’s being considered. I’m surprised no names have leaked yet; unless they have, and we just haven’t been aware of them.
Earlier this year, Grazer said that he believed that they’d likely be looking at a lot of actors before they found the right one.
You might recall that, at one point, Wesley Snipes was Spike’s man for the starring job. I’m sure Snipes’ chances this time around are nil.
In a 2011 interview, James Brown’s daughter, Dr. Yamma Brown, said that the family was considering Eddie Murphy, Chris Brown & Usher to star in the Godfather of Soul’s biopic – an announcement which, as I recall, took a lot of you by surprise.
Whether or not any of the above gentlemen are still being considered, or if there are others, we’ll find out eventually; although, I seriously doubt it.
And as for whether James Brown (whom Grazer said he met several times while he was alive, and even discussed the project) was at all concerned about a warts and all telling of his life story on film, Grazer said he seemed OK with that.
The screenplay has been penned by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth (they wrote the script for Fair Game, the Naomi Watts and Sean Penn film).