'Get On Up' Premiere: Chadwick Boseman Initially 'Didn't Want to Try' Playing James Brown
The "42" star took on the daunting task of playing the Godfather of Soul by working hard and taking things "one step at a time," his co-stars and director Tate Taylor told THR at the Universal biopic's debut at Harlem's Apollo Theater.
To play James Brown, the hardest-working man in show business, Get on Up star Chadwick Boseman took an appropriately industrious approach.
“The man did his homework,” Jill Scott, who plays Brown’s second wife, Deedee, told The Hollywood Reporter at Monday night’s Get On Up premiere in New York. “He worked so hard; he practiced five hours a day — every day. Even on his time off he was still practicing those dance moves. Chad couldn’t even dance when he took this film.”
PHOTOS 25 Summer Movies for Grown-Ups
The film’s choreographer, Aakomon Jones, who also plays a choreographer in the movie, confirmed that while Boseman wasn’t a professional dancer, “he had rhythm.”
“What I always say is, ‘All you have to do is work really hard, and you can make up for not really dancing like James Brown your whole life as I have.’ He worked hard enough and played catch-up,” Jones added.
Jones explained that he and Boseman trained for three-and-a-half weeks before production began, working “for hours upon hours,” with Jones teaching Boseman how to dance as the 42 star learned how to become Brown as an actor.
Still, director Tate Taylor told THR that it was Boseman’s acting ability that convinced him he was the right man for the job.
PHOTOS Mick Jagger Goes Hollywood
“I realized that first and foremost, I had to find a brilliant actor. It’s easy to gravitate toward the costumes and the dancing, but I just realized that somebody was going to have to play a 63-year-old, and that’s what I had him read for,” The Help helmer said. “So I just searched for an actor with skill, and Chadwick was the guy.”
Nevertheless, Boseman told THR he was so intimidated by the prospect of playing the Godfather of Soul, “I didn’t even want to try it.” Taylor spent two months convincing Boseman to take on the gig, telling the actor that they “would take it one step at a time.”
“And as much as he was wanting to make sure he could do it, I did too, and that if we at any point felt that it wasn’t working out, we would go our separate ways. And it kept working out,” Taylor said.
What sealed the deal for Boseman? “I knew that everybody that was involved was going to be at the top of their game, so why not try?” he said.
PHOTOS 18 Breakthrough Stars of 2013: Lorde, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tatiana Maslany and More
In addition to winning over the cast and crew, Boseman impressed Brown’s family, with Brown’s grandson, Jason, who worked on the film, telling THR, “Chadwick’s work ethic was outstanding. He knew how important the role was to the world, and he gave his world to play James Brown.”
The premiere at Harlem’s legendary Apollo Theater drew many members of Brown’s family, along with the production team that helped the film make it to the big screen, led by Brian Grazer and Mick Jagger.
The Rolling Stones frontman, who’s getting increasingly involved in Hollywood, told a group of reporters that he hopes audiences will “be excited by the music…[and] touched by the story.”
PHOTOS Note Perfect: The 15 Best Portrayals of Musicians in Movies
Speaking of music-based stories, Get On Up choreographer Jones also gave THR some hints about the choreography in Pitch Perfect 2, which he just finished working on, saying it will be “bigger, more involved, more advanced and a lot more dance.”
Meanwhile, Taylor also dished on the Tupperware movie he’s working on with Sandra Bullock, whom he met with longtime friend Octavia Spencer the same way Spencer did — through his work as a production assistant on A Time to Kill.
Taylor cautioned that the project, which Sony recently picked up, is still in its early stages, saying, “I’ve gotta write it!”
“It’s a wonderful project about Brownie Wise, the woman that basically, as I say, she leaned in 20 years before Sheryl Sandberg was even born, and she started a revolution for women in the workplace by selling Tupperware, and it’s a story of her life but not a biopic of her life, it’s inspired by her life,” Taylor explained. “I went to Sandy [Bullock] and gave her my pitch for it and she said, ‘This sounds great, let’s do it.’ And luckily Sony Pictures and Amy Pascal said [they were onboard]."
Get On Up co-stars Dan Aykroyd, Nelsan Ellis, Tika Sumpter, Josh Hopkins, Fred Melamed and others also made the scene at the Apollo along with Universal Pictures executives Ron Meyer, Donna Langley and Jeff Shell.