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Bonnetias Williams
Bonnetias Williams

Get On Up



Get On Up is an unreleased cover version of the 1967 track by The Esquires (from the album Get On Up And Get Away) recorded on 3 May 1986 at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, California (the day before In A Large Room With No Light). It is unknown if this song was intended for any project at that time.




Get on Up


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Born in a shack in the South Carolina woods, then abandoned by his depressed, beaten-down mother (Viola Davis) and abusive father (Lennie James), James, played as a boy by the brothers Jamarion and Jordan Scott, is raised in a whorehouse, where he's baptised in crude sensuality and pain. He is then sent to prison for stealing a suit. When he gets out and starts to perform, trying out those ecstatic wails and the soon-to-be-famous footwork that makes it look like he's dancing on top of boiling water, it's both an attack and an escape: with every last soul scream and rapid-fire shudder-step, he's ascending into the heavens by stomping on his own hidden void.


So Boseman, who was not trained as a professional dancer, overcame his reservations and painstakingly transformed himself into the musical giant, nailing nearly every nuance and detail down to the swagger, the hair, the manicured nails and, of course, the signature dance moves.


Parents need to know that Get On Up is an entertaining biopic about the Godfather of Soul, James Brown. Wide ranging, it covers both Brown's highs (groundbreaking performances and breakthroughs) and lows (the death of his child, domestic violence, smoking crack cocaine) and includes lots of mature material, making it too edgy for tweens and young teens. Expect scenes of relationship strife (physical fights and loud arguments), fighting, a car chase, a gun being fired, period-accurate smoking, social drinking, drug use (a brief scene shows a man adding a rock-like substance to his rolled cigarettes), passionate kissing, implied sex, and some swearing ("s--t," "f--k").


There are stars, and then there are STARS. James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) was a supreme entertainer, gifted with enormous talent and vision. But hardscrabble doesn't even begin to describe the life from which he sprung, with a neglectful mother (Viola Davis) who abandoned him and an abusive father who eventually left him in the hands of a brothel owner (Octavia Spencer). Brown's main escape as a child from a life hobbled by poverty and societal restraints was church, where he was awed by a preacher who sang with such conviction that it made young James feel unshackled, if only for a little while. After landing in jail for attempting to steal a three-piece suit, Brown meets Bobby Byrd (Nelsan Ellis), the lead singer of a gospel group who takes Brown into his stable home and provides the opportunity for the singer to finally take the stage and become the Godfather of Soul.


Director Tate Taylor gets so many things right in GET ON UP, starting with the cast. The astounding ensemble is led by Boseman, who not so much mimics but channels the Godfather of Soul in carriage, bearing and -- especially -- onstage charisma, imbuing his performance with a lot of soul and depth, particularly in a backstage scene shared with Davis that will break your heart with its complexity and deep sadness. Boseman shares top credit, acting-wise, with Ellis, who paints Byrd with exacting authenticity and empathy.


And then there's the storytelling. Taylor dispenses with dogged chronology and opts for a boomerang approach that careens from Brown's adulthood to childhood and back again, each scene informing the previous one, adding layers so that the legendary R&B singer comes alive, flaws and all. (That said, the film is overlong, and Brown's relationship with his wives gets short shrift.) Best of all is how Taylor handles Brown's performances, allowing the music to dominate and persuade, to remind us why there is no other James Brown and likely never will be.


"I met James Brown several times, went to several of his concerts, and I ended up getting the rights from James Brown to his life story," Grazer says. "And I had several different writers work on this script. I was prepared to make the movie, and James Brown dies." It was Christmas Day, 2006. The film rights reverted to the James Brown estate.


Mick Jagger was able to obtain rights to Brown's music, and a friend asked if he would like to work on a documentary. Jagger came back with the idea of doing a James Brown feature as well, not knowing about Grazer's dejection. Research turned up the script written for Grazer by English playwrights Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth.


As Tate Taylor (The Help) was leaving a meeting about another project in Los Angeles, an Imagine Entertainment executive mentioned the James Brown script that had just arrived. "I was on my way to New York and I said, 'I'd like to read the script,'" Taylor says. "The plane is probably just crossing over Las Vegas and I look at my producing partner, John Norris, and say, 'I want to make this movie.'"


Finding their James Brown might prove more difficult. "Friends were saying you're never going to find someone who can do all the acting and singing and dancing," Jagger says. "You're going to have to use body doubles."


Taylor had his eye on Chadwick Boseman, who had starred as Jackie Robinson last year in 42. "I chased him down," Taylor says. "He said, 'No way. Who could ever do James Brown?' After a two-hour phone call, I got him a little bit curious and he came to L.A."


"I want people to act where it pulls you in and not act at you," Taylor says. "I know that when you think of James Brown you don't think of quiet dignity, but I knew we had to have that base somewhere in the story. And that's when I started honing in on Chadwick.


The second test was shot like a mini concert movie. Boseman worked for three days with choreographer Aakomon Jones on a medley of Cold Sweat, Can't Stand It and a bit of Try Me. The cinematographer and the costume and wig designers all experimented. "We shot take after take from different angles and cut it together," Boseman says.


"I had Chad's screen test in my house in L.A., and Octavia Spencer dropped in and saw me watching it on my computer," Taylor says. "She goes, 'Wow, he was so good.' She thought that was James. I said that was Chad Boseman's screen test, and she said, 'I hope you're done looking.'"


"Once you open up those books (including Brown's autobiography), you go, 'Oh, I didn't really know who this guy was. It's rooted in the blues, basically. It's Southern. It's got pain and humor wrapped up into it.


The movie opens with the shooting incident that landed Brown in prison for aggravated assault and eluding the police in a wild car chase. He unjustly docks bandmembers' pay. There are allusions to drug use and tax problems, and he strikes wife DeeDee.


From singing gospel and R&B with the Famous Flames, to becoming The Godfather of Soul and The Minister of New New Super Heavy Funk, Brown's musical influence spread beyond his own performances to the next generation's hip-hop. That's where Boseman began his personal connection.


"I have directed what we call hip-hop theater," he says. "If I was a break dancer this would be infinitely easier, because essentially hip-hop dance has some of its beginnings in James Brown's movements.


Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.


The footage comes courtesy of the Today morning show, in an interview with producers Grazer and Jagger, as well as star Boseman, who discuss the project, as footage of Boseman as Brown is intercut throughout.


Perri Nemiroff has been part of the Collider team since 2012. She hosts and produces the interview series, Collider Ladies Night, a show geared towards highlighting the need-to-know female voices in film and television.Perri's a proud graduate of Columbia University's Film MFA program and member of the Critics Choice Association. Perri splits her time between Los Angeles and New York, but wherever the film and television coverage takes her, she goes!


A man is walking through a darkened hall. From outside, an audience is chanting his name loudly. As he takes his walk, he hears voices of people he knew throughout his life. This man is James Brown (Chadwick Boseman).


1988 - Atlanta, Georgia - James, wearing a green tracksuit, goes to a strip mall that he owns, and learns that somebody had been using his bathroom without his consent. He returns to his truck and retrieves a shotgun, to the horror of those in attendance. He addresses the people about who can use the bathroom and when before he accidentally fires a round into the ceiling. James cries, "Good God!" A frightened woman, Shirley Buell (Cleta Ellington), confesses to having used the bathroom. James forgives her, saying she did right by herself. Sirens are heard, and James realizes he must leave. 041b061a72


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