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I Got the Feelin': James Brown's Moves
To play James Brown, an actor must move with both control and abandon. His sinewy stage moves gave physical form to the beat that drives his music, but his hand gestures also served a practical purpose. "He was like a human baton," says executive producer Afterman. "He was telling his musicians what to do next, like an orchestra conductor."

Jagger's first encounter with Brown was when he caught his full show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, and he admits that the physicality and energy he witnessed made him a lifelong fan of Brown. "I went to see him a lot of times in different places in that part of my career," Jagger says. "He was an amazing frontman, and if that's your gig, you're going to want to see the very best." Jagger was equally transfixed by Brown's physical presence as he was his vocals. "I watched him do the splits, and thought, 'Well, I'm not doing that,' but I'm not ashamed to say I borrowed other moves. He was brilliant. The best mover, amazing voice and amazing grooves. It all really knocked you out."

Indeed, Jagger and Brown actually worked together during filming of the legendary T.A.M.I. Show ("Teen Age Music International") in Santa Monica, California, a concert reproduced in Get on Up. A cult classic, the 1964 film starred the Stones and James Brown-along with Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, The Supremes, The Beach Boys, Lesley Gore and others-and included an audience of screaming, rabid fans echoing the energy that radiated from that once-in-a-lifetime stage.

Brown's incendiary 18-minute set during the T.A.M.I. Show was the first time white American teens felt "Mr. Dynamite's" heat. As Octavia Spencer, the woman who would become the film's Aunt Honey, notes, "Hel-lo! Dirty dancing has come to town!" Keith Jenkins, a 12-year veteran of Brown's band, was on set to help Boseman learn those moves and grooves-ones seen and attempted to duplicate by countless fans over the decades. "Over the span of James Brown's lifetime, the dances he did changed," says the musician. "You can't just learn a couple moves and be done with it. Chad's commitment was mind-blowing. In between every take, he was practicing."

Aakomon Jones had discovered that a few months earlier, when he was hired to prepare Boseman, first for his screen test and then for filming. "Chadwick had rhythm and could dance, but nowhere near the degree he needed to pull this off," says the choreographer. "But he's grown faster than anyone I've worked with before. At first, we'd do two-hour rehearsals, like a boot camp, but we beefed up the hours right away and tried to go as hard as we could."

The results impressed everyone on set. "What he's done is quite an achievement," says Jagger. "He's not a guy off Broadway. He worked his butt off, and it comes across. He really makes it live for you."

Huggins adds: "We knew as producers, and certainly Tate saw as the director, that this role is about the performance. We knew Chad would nail that. What he's also been able to do as a dancer is amazing."

Boseman and Jones trained for a month in Los Angeles before shifting their regimen to Natchez, Mississippi, where the Get on Up production was based. Already fit and athletic-he'd played Jackie Robinson, after all-the actor was surprised at how hard dancers work. Boseman recalls: "I said, 'Five-hour rehearsals?' The dancers said, 'We do eight hours a lot of times.' We built up to that, and it was intense. But you know, in the beginning, I could only do the mashed potato in slick shoes. Eventually, I could do it in sneakers because my legs got so much stronger."

Boseman's portrayal begins at age 16 and ends around 63. Brown's music, moves and overall body language changed many times over those years, and Boseman had to layer those changes into his performance.

Boseman also had to master Brown's signature splits...and bounce back up. But that wasn't the hardest part of the job. "To dance like him is much more difficult than you realize," Boseman says. "The parts of your body are moving in different directions, and he's never still at the mic. He's always moving. But there's something about his music that takes you to a different place in yourself. You reach a point where you want to let it drive you." The choreographer made sure Boseman could drive wherever he needed to go. "I didn't want to marry him to choreography in the beginning," Jones explains. "I wanted to give him the ability to have freedom in his performance."

Jones had studied Brown's moves long enough to know the importance of freedom. "I didn't have to look at anything I hadn't seen before to do this film because that's how big a James Brown fan I've always been," says the choreographer. "I just went further into the how and why, as opposed to the what. It's about the feeling, and where you're coming from, to be able to move that way. "You may look at Chad and say that little piece looks very Prince or Michael Jackson or Lenny Kravitz," he continues. "Or even Mick Jagger. But all those things you're seeing come from James Brown."

Of course, Jones had more than Boseman's moves to worry about. All of The Famous Flames had to be spot-on, as did the dozens of other artists who appear in musical numbers.

Jones portrays Famous Flame Bobby Bennett dancing at the Apollo gig, the T.A.M.I. Show and Ski Party tapings and the nonspecific concert featuring "It's a Man's Man's Man's World." Assistant choreographer CODIE WIGGINS danced the role of Famous Flame "Baby" Lloyd Stallworth alongside Jones, which meant just two Flames in these scenes-the actors playing Brown and Byrd- were not professional dancers. Jones was determined to make sure no one would know the difference. Commends Taylor: "Aakomon Jones is the unsung hero of this movie."

Jones thought the casting of Nelsan Ellis as Bobby Byrd was perfect. "Bobby Byrd wasn't sliding across the stage, going crazy like James Brown," he notes. "He had that cool groove that's similar to Nelsan himself: a supersmooth, suave, tinted sunglasses, French leather jacket kind of vibe."

Supercool or not, it was still demanding for Ellis. "I used to have pretty feet," he joked, "but not anymore. Now they look like dancers' feet."

Ellis worked hard with Jones and Wiggins, always game for one last rehearsal on set before takes. He also had his own coach for extra training. "Certainly in the club, I have a little rhythm," he says. "But I quickly learned that I needed help when it comes to choreography."

The film's biggest concert sequence is a three-song extravaganza-"Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine," "Super Bad" and "Soul Power"-from the 1971 Olympia theater concert in Paris. By choosing to set this peak moment in France, Taylor made a point about Brown. "I thought it says so much about him, that a man from Georgia and South Carolina, born in a shack in the woods, would go on to command sold-out shows in Paris," he lauds.

For Jones, the Olympia show meant a lot of moving parts, but he downplays the daunting challenge: "The horn players are doing their steps, the dancers have their moves, the background singers have theirs. James Brown, Bobby Byrd, The J.B.'s, the conductor-they're all doing their thing. I knew the scope would be big, but I've dealt with large numbers of people on stage before. It's just a matter of giving everyone their part to play and making sure it all goes together."

As for pleasing his director, Jones was happy to meet that bar. "Tate loves dance, and knows what he wants: the raw and the real."

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