Lee signs on for Godfather of Soul film

Spike Lee has signed on to direct a feature on the life of James Brown for Paramount and Imagine Entertainment. Brian Grazer is producing, and the pic could be in production by late next year, though 2008 is more likely.

Lee will rewrite a draft recently turned in by Jezz and John Henry Butterworth. Script has been through several drafts since Steve Baigelman wrote the original.

Brown was an active part of the development of the biopic project. The singer met with Baigelman, and gave the Butterworth brothers access to his camp. Brown’s longtime sideman Bobby Byrd also was interviewed for two days by the Butterworth duo. The rights package includes Brown’s life rights, and also access to all his music rights.

“Like everybody, I was surprised and saddened that James Brown died,” Grazer said Tuesday. “Having known him well, and after spending lots of time with him and researching his life, it’s somehow not surprising that he died on Christmas Day. He was the ultimate showman, all the way to the end.”

Lee has two other projects with Grazer. He will next direct a John Ridley-scripted film on the L.A. riots for Universal and Imagine. He will either follow with the Brown film or an “Inside Man” sequel, which Russell Gewirtz is scripting.

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