Producer says James Brown biopic is finally a go

The movie producer Brian Grazer says that  he has obtained the rights to James Brown’s music from the singer’s estate and that he is moving ahead with a long-delayed film about Mr. Brown’s life. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Mr. Grazer said that he had brought in Mick Jagger as a producer and that they intended to begin casting the movie soon, using a revised version of a script Mr. Grazer commissioned years ago from the British screenwriters Jez and John-Henry Butterworth.

Mr. Grazer, a producer of “Apollo 13,” “American Gangster,” “A Beautiful Mind” and “8 Mile,” among other movies, began working on the Brown project more than a decade ago and had permission from Mr. Brown to do the film. But that plan unraveled when Mr. Brown died in 2006, and his decision to leave his fortune — roughly $100 million — to charity sparked a bitter and tangled legal fight over his estate, involving his seven children and his last wife.

That fight was settled when the South Carolina attorney general stepped in to broker an agreement under which the singer’s property, music rights and future earnings would be split between a charitable foundation, his widow and his children. Now, Mr. Grazer has told Rolling Stone he has won permission from the people in control of the rights to go ahead with the film.

“I like to make movies about mastery and genius, and it’s hard to find great subjects,” Mr. Grazer told the magazine. “And James Brown is a visually dynamic subject. ‘A Beautiful Mind’ was hard because we had to get you to understand how schizophrenia works. This will be much easier. On the most visceral level, he sings and dances, and the performance of that contributes to defining him as the hardest working man in showbiz.”

Mr. Grazer said that he had originally intended to hire Spike Lee to direct the film, but that he is now working with Tate Taylor, perhaps best known for directing “The Help.” He said he has yet to find an actor to portray Mr. Brown.

“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,” he said. “No movie starts in a day.


Producer Says James Brown Biopic Is Finally a Go
James C. McKinley Jr.
January 16, 2013
The New York Times