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James Brown Biopic Set to Start Casting

January 17, 2013  |  4:00pm
James Brown Biopic Set to Start Casting

It looks as though the long-delayed James Brown biopic is now picking up some major momentum.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, producer Brian Grazer revealed that he and co-producer/Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger are working on casting the film.

It’s certainly a long time coming. Grazer—a megastar producer whose credits include Apollo 13, Frost/Nixon and A Beautiful Mind—has been attempting to get a film made of the Godfather of Soul since the early 90s. For much of the pre-production process, Do the Right Thing director Spike Lee was attached to direct.

When Grazer initially approached Brown about the project, he was met with some resistance from the late singer. Though reportedly excited, Brown was also concerned about how the film would depict his troubled childhood and drug addiction.

After his death, however, Brown’s assets and finances became the source of severe legal scrutiny, placing the film in movie limbo. In 2009, the South Carolina attorney general constructed an agreement whereby Brown’s property, music rights and any future earnings will be divided among the singer’s widow, children and charity organization.

In the wake of the settlement, Grazer resumed work on the film. In addition to casting, the original script by British playwrights (and brothers) Jez and John-Henry Butterworth is currently in the revision process.

“We haven’t made any decisions yet,” Grazer said in his interview. “We’re going to start casting and we’re going to have to test lots of actors and be determined to pick the right one.”

The revived project was not without a speed bump or two. When it was announced in October that Spike Lee would no longer be involved and Tate Taylor—a white director whose credits include the Oscar-winning film The Help — would be taking over as director, certain blogs cried foul, stating that James Brown’s story should be told by an African-American filmmaker.

“Mick and I don’t see the world that way,” Grazer replied when asked about the controversy. “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.”

The full interview with Grazer can be read here.

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