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‘42’ Star Chadwick Boseman’s Got a Brand New Bag, Signs for James Brown Biopic; ‘Help’ Actors Circle

Written by on August 26, 2013 

Jumping from the portrayal of one American legend to the next, Variety report that Chadwick Boseman, hot off his big break as Jackie Robinson in this spring’s 42, is signed to headline Universal’s untitled, Tate Taylor-helmed biopic centered on the life of James Brown; furthermore, TheWrap have learned that the Help director is looking for a three-way reunion on his next project, approaching Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, and Nelsan Ellis for undisclosed roles. The title, produced by Brian Grazer (via Imagine Entertainment) and Mick Jagger (via Jagged Films), has been in various states of development for nearly a decade, movement only reigniting once a helmer boarded — and, judging by the notices of outlets, it’s this recent signing which warrants a green light.

As scripted by Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth (Fair Game) — coming from a draft originally credited to Steven Baigelman — Universal’s effort will run in the most familiar of biopic trajectories: James Brown, born in Depression-era South Carolina, rises from the doldrums of poverty to the glories of superstardom, feeling good (he knew that he would) while cementing his status as a musical and cultural icon. Odd that it would take such a length of time to get produced — you figure the story is relatively lucrative, as written — but these budgetary things do, on occasion, get prickly in Hollywood, and, in such cases, it (more or less) goes without saying that the acquisition of bankable performers makes all the difference in the world.

Boseman, after receiving strong notices for his work in 42, is a perfectly sensible pick for its lead, though I have to ask if Taylor — someone who, as a filmmaker, shows himself to be perfectly decent, if not exactly a great deal more — can bring any visual electricity and dynamism worthy of what Brown so strongly exuded as a stage performer. This writer remains doubtful, but, like any great biopic subject, he has the chance to best odds and overcome expectations.

How do you feel about the cast lineup for Taylor’s project?


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