James Brown rose through his struggles to become a pop culture legend – the world's “The Godfather of Soul,” “Soul Brother No. One.” He gave joy and entertainment to thousands, and now he is getting something back in return.
Tate Taylor, director of “The Help”, Mick Jagger, lead singer of Rolling Stones and founder of Jagged Films, and Brian Grazer, co-founder of Imagine Entertainment, are coming together to document Brown's life in a biopic.
“They have a true respect for my father, and that's the most important thing,” Deanna Brown Thomas, Brown's daughter, said. “Mike Jagger is such a huge fan, and he was inspired from James Brown.”
Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, co-writers of “Fair Game”, will write the screenplay, according to Rolling Stone magazine. While no other production details have been made such as a cast list or title, Jagger and Grazer's companies are searching for distribution for the film and an actor to cast as Brown.
Originally, Spike Lee, director of “Inside Man” and “Do the Right Thing,” was hired to direct the film in 2006. However, Grazer decided to go with Tate, according to Rolling Out's website. Lee had chosen Eddie Murphy for Brown's role.
While Brown was born in Barnwell, he grew up in Augusta. Since the area was so key to Brown, Thomas believes shooting locations should include North Augusta, Augusta and Beech Island, where Brown lived and held his businesses' headquarters, according to media reports.
“I look forward to having the film crews here … to capture actual essence of where my father was from,” Thomas said. “These are his roots and where he spent his times.”
Talks of a film were discussed when Brown was alive, when Grazer came to Brown back in the 1990s, according to Thomas.
Filming rights were bought from Brown's estate, and the filming trio looks forward to working closely with the family.
“It's a great honor to be involved with a project as rich as the story of the legendary James Brown,” Jagger told Deadline magazine. “He was a mesmerizing performer with a fascinating life.”
When Brown died, the Aiken-Augusta area came together in true remembrance of him. People placed flowers, candles and other items around his statue on Broad Street in downtown Augusta. His funeral in December 2006 drew thousands of celebrities such as Michael Jackson, political activists and more into the James Brown Arena.
In August 2006, shortly before his death on Christmas Day in 2006, Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center was christened the James Brown Arena, adding to the James Brown Boulevard and his statue downtown.
One music columnist and novelist remembers Brown very fondly.
Don Rhodes, of Augusta, wrote “Say it Loud! My Memories of James Brown, Soul Brother No.1!” in 2009, about the man he knew for 40 years.
When he was a student at the University of Georgia, Rhodes attended a concert of Browns and Ray Charles in 1966. He went backstage – at a time when that was easy, Rhodes said – and bumped into Brown with two of his sons. The meeting was brief, yet little did Rhodes know it would off-set such a long-term relationship. The two reunited in Vietnam and then in Augusta, where they grew to be close friends.
I saw him a lot in movie theaters and on Broad Street. I went to his Christmas party and a few of his rehearsals, Rhodes said.
“He was fascinating,” Rhodes said. “He was one of the most outstanding people I've known in my life.”
Covering musicians so closely, Rhodes can spot falsities in biopics. His hopes for the upcoming film is that the team stays true to Brown's life.
“My philosophy if you don't tell bad things, people won't believe the good things,” he said, referring specifically to his book. “James was a colorful character,” he said. “He was larger than life.”
To carry on her father's legacy, Thomas is now the president of The Brown Family Children Foundation, an organization that continues the turkey and toy giveaways for underprivileged children and families that Brown started. She is also the founder of the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils, a program designed towards enhancing children and teenagers' musical education. The foundation will host its next turkey giveaway on Nov. 19 and its next toy giveaway on Dec. 20; the academy is aiming to send a group to SchoolJam USA Battle of the Band's finals on Jan. 26 in Anaheim, Calif. by asking people to go to SchoolJam USA's website to vote.
Stephanie Turner is a graduate of Valdosta State University. She is a features writer for the Aiken Standard.