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Director Of 'The Help' In Talks To Direct James Brown Biopic; What Happened To Spike Lee's Film?

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act October 22, 2012 at 4:01PM

Well... First Spike Lee spent years trying to get his Jackie Robinson project financed and produced (unsuccessfully), only to eventually watch Legendary Pictures and Brian Helgeland launch their own Jackie Robinson picture with Chadwick Boseman starring (scheduled to be released in 2013).
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James Brown in Alex Gibney's "Mr. Dynamite."
James Brown in Alex Gibney's "Mr. Dynamite."

Well... First Spike Lee spent years trying to get his Jackie Robinson project financed and produced (unsuccessfully), only to eventually watch Legendary Pictures and Brian Helgeland launch their own Jackie Robinson picture with Chadwick Boseman starring (scheduled to be released in 2013).

And now, Spike is going to 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.

You'll recall that a film based on the life of the singer has long been in the works, with Spike Lee wanting to direct, and Brian Grazer overseeing the production; so this is obviously the same project that Grazer wants to see realized.

I wonder what happened with what he and Spike already seemed to have going... hopefully we'll get an answer to that question eventually.

At one point, Wesley Snipes was Spike's man for the starring job, but my guess is that Wesley's tax problems meant a change in plans.

In fact, as recently as 2009, it seemed like the project was as close to a sure-thing as any can get, with Spike saying in an interview with MTV News, "We're doing it together – it's going to happen... He’s my man."

He was referring to Wesley Snipes in that quote back in January 2009 (S&A hadn't been born yet).

Spike added that he intended to use James Brown's "authentic voice" during for any musical sequences in the film; essentially, Wesley would lip-synch.

Years later since that interview, little seemed to have further developed on the project, and it looked like it was dead.

Last we heard about the film (in 2011), James Brown's daughter, Dr. Yamma Brown said that the family was considering Eddie MurphyChris BrownUsher 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 those 3 gentlemen is still being considered, or if there are others, isn't public info.

Deadline is reporting that Mick Jagger has joined Grazer as producer, and 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).

Also worth noting is that James Brown’s family is still very much involved in the project, which is moving full speed ahead, as the hunt for an actor to play Brown, begins.

Who are your choices for the role?

I say, go with an unknown - definitely not a star.


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