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James Brown Died Today... What's Happening w/ The Biopic Spike Lee Was Attached To Direct?

by Tambay A. Obenson
December 25, 2011 7:54 PM
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James Brown in Alex Gibney's "Mr. Dynamite."
James Brown in Alex Gibney's "Mr. Dynamite."

Today in history, December 25th, 2006, James Brown, aka The Godfather of Soul, died from congestive heart failure resulting from pneumonia complications.

He was 73 years old.

A film based on the life of the singer has long been in the works, with Spike Lee attached to direct it, and uber-producer Brian Grazer overseeing the project; though it's in limbo right now, with no certainty whatsoever that it'll ever be made.

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 surething 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.

2 years later since that interview, and 4 years since the project first came together, little seems to have further developed on this project, and it looks like if it does happen anytime soon, it won't be Wesley Snipes in the starring role.

Last we heard about the film (much earlier this year), 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, and 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.

There's still an IMDB page for it, which someone continues to update (who that is, I don't know); currently, it's due date is listed as sometime 2013, so maybe it's still very much alive; maybe we can get Spike to say something about it.

As I’ve said before, I’d cast an unknown for the part.

Also, when it comes to biopics, I’d much rather that they focus on some period of the man’s life, as opposed to trying to squeeze his entire life into 2 hours.

James Brown's is just one of several film projects based on the lives of deceased black entertainers currently in limbo (films on the lives of Marvin GayeNina Simone and Tupac are 3 I can immediately think of).

Watch the old clip below in which Dr. Yamma Brown reveals names being considered to play her father on screen:

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  • Donella | December 27, 2011 4:26 PMReply

    I'd rather watch a biopic of James Brown than Marion Berry.*** Also @Tambay "James Brown's is just one of several film projects based on the lives of deceased black entertainers currently in limbo (films on the lives of Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone and Tupac are 3 I can immediately think of)." *** I'll go ahead and add Teddy Pendergrass to this list--Tyrese is looking at that role.

  • samax | December 26, 2011 8:11 AMReply

    I would love Eddie Murphy in the role. He's underrated as an actor... it will take a black director like Spike to really get his potential out of him. I wouldn't give the film a chance if Chris Brown or Usher were cast... I'd rather that they go with an unknown if there is some reason not to cast Eddie Murphy.

  • Troy | December 25, 2011 11:19 PMReply

    They need to reach out to Derek Luke

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