News Column

Crowds 'Get on up' for movie

September 22, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 22--NATCHEZ -- Actors and musicians from Natchez, Baton Rouge, Jackson and even as far away as Iowa filled the Natchez City Auditorium Saturday hoping for a chance at a role in the upcoming James Brown movie to be filmed in Natchez.

"Get On Up" will tell the story of the Godfather of Soul's life from his impoverished childhood to his evolution into one of the most influential figures of the 20th century.

Natchez police officer Wendy King, 32, has never acted before, but said she figured she would give it a shot.

"I'm a big James Brown fan, and I've always wanted to act, so I just thought now was a good time to try," she said.

Beverly Wilson, 64, has been an extra or stand-in in movies filmed in Natchez, including "North and South," "Huckleberry Finn" and "Beulah Land."

"It's a lot of fun, and it's very interesting to be on set," she said.

Wilson and Ethel Washington, 64, both say they saw James Brown in the 1970s and are big fans.

Washington, originally from Los Angeles, worked at the Biltmore Hotel and said she is accustomed to being around the movie business.

"When I saw the movie advertised, I just thought, 'You know, I remember the James Brown era and how much fun it was,'" she said.

Brothers Derrick and Timothy Chatman admit that their mother talked them into attending the casting call. But Derrick said he is excited for the opportunity to be a part of a movie chronicling the life of James Brown.

"I've always been a fan of his unique dancing," he said.

LSU student Sarah Alem, 21, made the drive from Baton Rouge for the casting call. Alem, who works at the Celtic Media Centre, has acted in a short film and a music video.

"I love acting, and I love James Brown," she said. "I'm just trying to get my foot in the door."

Jackson State student Kimberly Lewis and her husband, Joshua, who is a musician, came from Jackson for the casting call. Lewis has acted in a few independent films and said she jumped at the chance to be in a film about James Brown.

"Anything historical, I really like," she said.

Megan Lynn Jackson may have made the longest trip for the casting call, driving 19 hours nearly non-stop from Cherokee, Iowa, to Natchez.

"It's James Brown, and it's a movie," said the 24-year-old, who has acted in commercials. "I'm tired of working as a server, and I wanted something different."

Casting assistant Blair Foster said the casting crew was seeking as many extras as possible.

"And with a picture like this, and it being set in the South, we want people to be as authentic as possible," she said. "It's great to have the community we're in be involved."

Saturday's casting call will likely be the only open casting call for the film, Foster said. Another open call, Foster said, may be hosted in Jackson.

Anyone unable to attend the casting call may e-mail a current photo, name, phone number, e-mail address, height, weight and availability to GetOnUpExtras@gmail.com.

The film begins shooting in Natchez and Jackson in early November.

The film's premiere is set for Oct. 17, 2014.

Tate Taylor, who directed the Academy Award-nominated film "The Help," will direct the film. Taylor officially announced last month in Jackson that the James Brown biopic would be shot in Natchez and Jackson.

Taylor said every frame of the movie would be shot in Mississippi, including scenes set in Paris and Vietnam.

Taylor grew up in Jackson and now has a house in Church Hill, a community north of Natchez.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said at the August announcement that the movie would be filming at the Mississippi Coliseum on the state fairgrounds, where Brown performed a concert in February 1969.

The producers have committed to working with the state's WIN Job Centers to hire extras and qualified crew members.

Leading roles in the film have been set.

Chadwick Boseman, who played Jackie Robinson in "42," will be portraying Brown.

Academy Award winner Brian Grazer and Erica Huggins will produce the film for Imagine Entertainment. Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and Victoria Pearman will produce under their Jagged Films banner.

Under his Wyolah Films label, Taylor will also be a producer for the film, while Wyolah's John Norris will be an executive producer alongside Trish Hofmann and Peter Afterman.

The film will depict James Brown's life from when he was nearly 5 years old and will extend to 1993. Brown died in 2006.

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(c)2013 The Natchez Democrat (Natchez, Miss.)

Visit The Natchez Democrat (Natchez, Miss.) at www.natchezdemocrat.com

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