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Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Nelsan Ellis All Eyed For Roles In James Brown Biopic

by Tambay A. Obenson
August 27, 2013 9:42 AM
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Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer

Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer could be reuniting with their The Help director, Tate Taylor, in his James Brown biopic, which, yesterday, booked Chadwick Boseman in the starring role

This according to The Wrap, who also say that True Blood star, Nelsan Ellis, is also in Taylor's sights for a supporting role.

No word yet, however, on what roles Davis, Spencer and Ellis are being considered for.

Nelsan Ellis

Taylor announced plans to begin shooting his James Brown biopic this fall, with Brian Grazer producing alongside Mick Jagger, for Universal Pictures.

This would make it the second real-life public personality Boseman will play on screen. Earlier this year, he starred as Jackie Robinson in Brian Helgeland's biopic on the history-making baseball legend, 42.

This is a film that Spike Lee was previously long-attached to direct, but was replaced by Tate Taylor earlier this year.

Taylor plans to shoot the film this fall in Mississippi, including filming at the Mississippi Coliseum on the state fairgrounds, where Brown performed a concert in February 1969. 

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).

So, essentially, James Brown, The Godfather Of Soul's story will be told on screen by a pair of white writers, white producers and a white director.

That's progress for ya...

The story will begin in Brown's youth, as he rose from extreme poverty to become The Godfather Of Soul.

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  • Miles Ellison | September 2, 2013 9:23 PMReply

    There's not a lot of appreciation, concern, or demand for nuance and "rightness" in films anymore. That's why decisions like this are being made. People will flock to see this whether it's "right" or not. The audience will get their lowest-common denominator portrayal of James Brown. The filmmakers will be relieved of the challenge of making a film to satisfy a discerning audience. It's a win-win. Throw in some white nobody to dominate the story and turn James Brown the black musical icon into a background prop (like Martin Luther King in the Selma movie) and you have a box office hit.

  • Peggy | September 2, 2013 7:30 PMReply

    White screenwriter. Well, at least Viola will be happy.

  • CareyCarey | August 28, 2013 9:19 AMReply

    "Culture is portrayed, conveyed, and communicated through nuance in behavior, movement, gesture. This decision makes it clear that they are not concerned with mastering these nuances. The movie may end up being good, but it will never be right." ~ Terrence Nance

    My afro wearing brother, where were you when Shadow and Act needed you? Your voice and insight were surely needed in Tambay's post "Are There Any Stories About Black People That You Think Should Only Be Told By Black People?"

    Now check this, I am sure you recognize the following synopsis: A quixotic artist hypothesizes about why he feels bad when a mystery girl stands him up. The event prompts him to ask: what's the content of a momentary feeling? Is it the sum of your experiences? And perhaps more importantly, are your experiences the sum of you?

    Yes, that's the synopsis for the film "An Oversimplification of Her Beauty" -- your film. So I'm sitting here wondering who is this man behind such insightful and thought provoking words in this post and that synopsis?

    On any account you've won me over. Therefore, if I had the power I'd select you as the next director of a major project on one of our icons. You're a young and gifted black director... and we need you. AND its been nice "meeting" you.

  • Bforreal | August 28, 2013 3:28 AMReply

    Okay, I'm just going to say it: I'm tired of all these gotdanged biopics! Enough already. Can we just give it a rest for a few years (like ten) and come up with some new story ideas, hell maybe adapt a black novel or two instead, anything but another dang biopic? I'm just saying.

  • Terence Nance | August 28, 2013 1:53 AMReply

    This whole situation spits in the face of Spike Lee -- sure but more over it also spits in the face of: Kasi Lemmons, Theodore Witcher, Ava Duverney, Barry Jenkins, Steve McQueen, Dee Res, John Ridley, Anthony Hemmingway, Seith Mann, Andrew Dosunmu, The Hughes Brothers, Alrick Brown, Kahlil Josepth, Reggie and Gina Blythewood, Ryan Coogler, Denzel Washington (the Director), Chris Robinson, Christine Turner, Shit... BRYAN BARBER, Darius Monroe, Nikyatu Jusu, Talibah Newman, Djinn Carrenard, Eddie Murphy (The Director), F Gary Gray (the one who directed friday not Law Abiding Citizen), Forrest Whittaker (the Director) , Haile Gerima, Julie Dash, Charles Burnett, John Singleton, Raoul Peck... RAOUL PECK, RICHARD AYOADE, Shaka King, Tanya Hamilton, Tina Mabry, Tina Gordon Chisolm, Ya'ke Smith, even Hype Williams... yes, Hype and every working, talented, and notable Black director has been spat on by whoever was responsible for making this decision.

    Culture is portrayed, conveyed, and communicated through nuance in behavior, movement, gesture. This decision makes it clear that they are not concerned with mastering these nuances. The movie may end up being good, but it will never be right.

    AND of all ppl -- TATE? The guy who made The HELP? It's like they want to provoke you into doing / saying something you shouldn't.

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