Director Spike Lee has reiterated his desire to make a James Brown biopic, with Wesley Snipes handling the role of the Godfather of Soul. “We’re doing it together, it’s going to happen,” Lee told MTV News at the Sundance Film Festival; the director first announced his intentions the day after Brown’s death. Like the Ray Charles biopic Ray, the Brown film will feature the singer’s voice dubbed over Snipes’ pipes when the songs kick in. “I want to hear James Brown’s voice. That’s just my personal taste,” the Do The Right Thing director said. “I know Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line, he did some of the singing. I’m a purist.” (And we all know what happened when Phoenix’s taste of playing a rocker led to a new career in the music industry.)
Snipes was sentenced to three years in prison in April 2008 after he was convicted of federal income tax evasion, so while the actor remains free while awaiting an appeal, Lee will need to rush in order to get this film made with Snipes in the lead role. We were kind of leery about whether Snipes still had the ability to take on such a high-profile performance, especially considering how his last six films were Direct-to-DVD, by-the-books action movies filmed in Europe while he was in exile from the U.S. But then we remembered Snipes’ turns in Major League and White Men Can’t Jump and felt better about the casting choice.
Lee and Paramount Pictures acquired the rights to the Brown biopic shortly after the singer died in 2006 of heart failure. Snipes signed on for the role in 2007. Lee has his hands full in 2009, with a planned Inside Man sequel and a Michael Jordan documentary also in the works.