EXCLUSIVE: Tate Taylor has set Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to star with Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up, the James Brown biopic that Imagine’s Brian Grazer is producing with Jagged Films’ Mick Jagger. Davis will play Susie Brown, who was only 16 when she gave birth to the future R&B legend, and abandoned him to live with relatives. Spencer will play the child’s Aunt Honey, a formative figure in his upbringing. This is a re-team with Taylor from The Help, for which Davis was nominated for Best Actress Oscar and Spencer winning for Best Supporting Actress. Universal will start production November in Mississippi. The script is by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Steven Baigelman, and Victoria Pearman and Erica Huggins are also producing. Davis is repped by CAA and Principal Entertainment, Spencer by WME.
EXCLUSIVE: Tate Taylor, who launched his writing and directing career by getting the option on The Help before author Kathryn Stockett was done writing it, has gotten himself on the ground floor of another sure-fire bestseller. Taylor has been granted an option by Stephen King to adapt and direct Joyland, the King novel that will be published in June. Taylor will adapt to direct, and John Norris will produce through his Wyolah Films banner. Taylor will also produce.
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of a college student who moonlights as a carnival worker. There, he confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will forever change his life. It’s got all the makings of a King potboiler, with crime, mystery, ghosts and a creepy carnival setting. The book is being published through Hard Case Crime, the line of pulp-styled crime paperbacks published by Titan Books.
EXCLUSIVE: Imagine Entertainment‘s Brian Grazer has bolstered his long desire to turn James Brown‘s life story into a feature film. Tate Taylor, who adapted and made his helming debut on The Help, is in negotiations to direct the untitled project. Another musical icon, Mick Jagger, has joined Grazer as producer. The film will be a co-production between Jagged Films, based on a screenplay by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth. Grazer and Jagger will produce along with Jagged’s Victoria Pearman and Imagine’s Erica Huggins. They will now look for distribution, and to find an actor who can play Brown.
The story charts a young boy’s rise from extreme poverty and violence to become The Godfather Of Soul, one of the most influential black artists in history whose career spanned six decades. Grazer started the project at a time when the singer himself was an active part in its development, before he died in late 2006.
The Butterworths most recently scripted the Doug Liman-directed Fair Game, which starred Naomi Watts and Sean Penn. Now, the question is who has the chops to play the singer. Eddie Murphy once did a stellar impression of the singer, but that was a long time ago. Anthony Mackie?
The Oscar race for best director is chock-full of major names and past winners who are back with some of their most acclaimed and anticipated films in years. Consider this: Woody Allen, a past winner in the category for Annie Hall (1977), is back this year with Midnight In Paris, not only his most acclaimed film in years but his most successful at the box office ($131 million worldwide). Martin Scorsese, a winner in 2006 for The Departed, has in Hugo a film that many are calling a masterpiece and one that is perhaps his most personal. Steven Spielberg, a two-time winner in the category for 1993’s Schindler’s List and 1998’s Saving Private Ryan, is having a banner year not only with a possible nomination for best animated feature for his first-ever ’toon The Adventures of Tintin, but he is also expected to be a major player as director of the film adaptation of this year’s big Tony-winning play War Horse. Roman Polanski, 2002 winner for The Pianist, also has a pony in the race with Carnage, the film version of the Broadway smash and Tony winner God Of Carnage. Two-time winner Clint Eastwood (Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby) is competing with J. Edgar, his biopic of controversial FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Past nominees Alexander Payne, Terrence Malick, Stephen Daldry, Bennett Miller, David Fincher, Jason Reitman and George Clooney are also in the hunt in what promises to be one of the most competitive races in years. But could the big prize actually go to a first-time nominee who made a black-and-white silent film?
Here’s the rundown on who are the hot helmers in the race for Oscar this year:
STEVEN SPIELBERG, WAR HORSE
Hollywood’s most famous and powerful director is going for his seventh nomination in the category and first since Munich in 2005 . Previously nominated for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and E.T. The Extra Terrestrial and a winner for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, this is his best chance to make it a three-peat with his screen adaptation of the beloved book and play War Horse. The epic look at the adventures of a brave horse in World War I has all the elements of a winner: strong emotion, big action scenes and a major pedigree. With his well-reviewed first animated foray Tintin also being released at the same time, Spielberg is a force to be reckoned with this year.
After Getting Close On Several Big Jobs, Director Bryan Barber’s Taking His Next Meetings With ‘Gigantor’ In His Corner
As fewer movies get made these days, the hardest thing for a director or a writer is just getting hired. Bryan Barber, who went from helming videos for bands like Outkast to making his feature debut with the stars of that group on the 2006 Prohibition Era musical Idlewild, grew so tired of getting close and losing out on big directing jobs that he hunted and secured a film-centric property to improve his odds. After the lengthy courtship of an 86-year old voiceover artist who controlled the rights, Barber will go to his next studio meeting flanked by Gigantor, the giant flying robot star of the 60s Japanese cartoon import with a catchy theme song and a family-friendly premise. Barber controls the movie, merchandise and videogame rights, and will shop a $60 million live action film he calls Transformers meets Goonies. And guess who’ll be attached as director?
Considering that robots remain hot—Hasbro told shareholders this week that another Transformers is in the offing and a Real Steel sequel is also a possibility—Barber figures there should be interest in this story of a 12-year old boy who ends up with the controls to the giant weaponized world-saving robot. Barber hopes to take the same proactive route that allowed Tate Taylor to direct the summer sleeper hit The Help (he optioned the book before it had a publisher) and years ago got Frank Darabont his directing debut on The Shawshank Redemption (Darabont had written a superb script and controlled the book, and refused to step aside even when Rob Reiner and Tom Cruise were ready to re-team after A Few Good Men).