The Billboard Cover Story - Jagger's James Brown: Who Is Chadwick Boseman?

When Get On Up director Tate Taylor began searching for his leading man, he auditioned both musicians and actors.

"Hundreds of them," recalls Get On Up producer Brian Grazer. "But it just came down to Chad. He played the older James Brown, the non-flashy parts, in a very human way. Some of the other possibilities we looked at could do the bigger-than-life part, the flashier side of James Brown, but they couldn't do the quieter, human side of him. Chad had that range."

Remarkably, the 32-year-old South Carolinian had no formal music or dance training, much like he had only Little League baseball experience before tackling Dodgers legend Jackie Robinson in Brian Helgeland's 2013 sports drama 42. So before reading for Taylor, he began trawling for footage of the late singer.

"The first thing I did was start watching him on YouTube," he says. "I probably watched two hours straight."

Grazer calls his performance transformative, aging from a teenager to his 60s and capturing the explosive stage energy. "And Chad did so much to become him beyond the performance pieces. He actually readjusted his mouth so that it would have that underbite like James Brown." 


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