James Brown Biopic ‘Get On Up’ Premieres at Newseum

“Many years ago, when they started talking about doing a movie, James wanted this film done a certain way,” said Reverend Al Sharpton (who claimed he worked as Brown’s manager “during critical points in his career”).   “I was amazed at how Chadwick captured James Brown.”

The pre-reception showed scenes from the film to be viewed later that night

As the world awaits the release of Get On Up, the James Brown biopic coming to theaters August 1st, a select DC audience was privy to an advance screening of the film — and a private discussion with the film’s star, Chadwick Boseman as well as Director Tate Taylor and Sharpton — as Comcast/NBCUniversal held an event in honor of the film Tuesday evening.

Starting with a lively reception starring soul food and James Brown’s festive funk — even Robert M. Thompson, James Brown’s original drummer was on hand playing the pre-screening — the night went swiftly into an intimate Q&A before a screening of the full length feature film, which chronicles James Brown’s rise from extreme poverty to becoming one of the most influential musicians in history.

Chadwick Boseman, a Howard graduate, who plays James Brown

Boseman, who plays Brown (and who earned his BA in Directing in 2000 from Howard University), detailed how he studied and ultimately took on the character of the larger than life James Brown for the film which was shot in just 49 days in Mississippi, at 96 locations and with 8 concerts. (According to Director, Tate:  “They call it a ‘responsible budget.’  I call it ‘What?!'”)

“Great art comes from pain,” Chadwick explained.  “He was able to use his pain.”

From Tate: “[James Brown] challenged everything his whole life.”

Soul food and soul music were a large part of the evening, with James Brown’s songs played throughout

And from Sharpton, an interesting comment on Brown’s ability to change perceptions and rally the cause of civil rights: “[With (the song) Black and Proud], we went from ‘negro’ to ‘black’ on one record.”

“All of us have a scene or two in life we would like to leave out, but I think James Brown would be happy,” concluded Sharpton.  “The overall theme of this film is ‘You can make it.'”

But he jokes the 2 hour and 47 minute film may not be long enough to delve into the full James Brown legacy.  “Chadwick and I, we are going to do a sequel.”

Get On Up opens in theatre August 1st.