GET ON UP
Steven Baigelman, Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth
Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth
EXT. ROAD. AUGUSTA. 1988.
A hot muggy Georgia morning. A pickup truck comes around a
corner and moves towards us. Inside, music plays on the
radio. We can't quite see who's driving.
2 INT/EXT. PICKUP TRUCK/AUGUSTA STREETS. MOMENTS LATER 2
The driver heads down the road. He beats his hand on the
steering wheel to the rhythm of the music. The driver turns
up the music. As the rhythm speeds, so does the truck.
3 INT. BATHROOM - SAME TIME 3
A WOMAN, 40, sits on toilet within a stall using the
bathroom. She's smoking a cigarette.
4 EXT. PARKING LOT. MOMENTS LATER. 4
Cars parked in rows. The pickup pulls into the lot and
INT. ADJACENT OFFICE. INSURANCE SEMINAR. DAY.
About 30 people are attending a seminar. Behind a SEMINAR
PRESENTER, The truck can be seen outside a window, stereo
Which brings us on to Dental
Insurance. Generally speaking, when
you receive care from a
participating PDP dentist, your out-
of-pocket expenses will typically
be lower than if your were to
accept care from a dentist outside
the group. The law deems it illegal
for dentists to charge any more
than the network approves... But
listen, in my three and a half
years of experience in this
business people mainly care about
keeping their premiums low. So,
each of you must be prepared to
sell the network to your clients
and always cater to their specific
Annoyed, the presenter turns momentarily to the truck.
INT/EXT. PICKUP TRUCK / PARKING LOT
A fifty-five year, out of shape black man in mirror shades
and a shell-suit. He's breathing heavily. Patting the
dashboard, as the song ends. The man sits there a moment and
JAMES BROWN hitches up his pants, and walks across the lot.
INT. NONDESCRIPT OFFICE
There's no one around. He's jumpy. His movements odd.
Around a corner he comes face to face with a cleaner, MAVIS,
who is wearing headphones as she vacuums.
Mavis screams and removes her headphones.
Mr. Brown. You scared me!
Mavis. Where's everybody at? I got
a meetin' this mornin'.
It's Sunday, Mr. Brown.
No, it's Tuesday, Mavis.
James is caught flat-footed. SOMEWHERE OFF a toilet flushes.
He rounds the corner. No-one. Opens the bathroom door. Looks
inside. Sniffs. Slams it and storms off down the corridor
passing a sign outside his office that reads: GET ON UP.
INT./EXT. ADJACENT OFFICE/ PARKING LOT. DAY.
As the INSURANCE SEMINAR presenter continues, the woman who
was on the toilet takes her seat.
Now, understand that not all people
have the same type of needs. When
it comes to an insurance plan
everyone is different.
SEMINAR PRESENTER (CONT'D)
You can't possibly sell the same
monthly premium to just anyone who
strolls through your door. If you
learn one lesson this weekend, let
it be this: We must accommodate the
specific condition of the client.
Bottom line! Their needs are-
The adjoining door flies opens as James enters, pissed.
OK Stop. Sir. Stop. Who been in
I own this building, someone has
been in there used my commode. Now
who was it?
Sorry. We're actually renting this
part of the building today, and
we're in the middle of a seminar.
I don't care if you're in the
middle of a heart attack son.
Someone been in there, I hear the
chain flush, I can smell it. Now
who it was?
It is. It's fuckin' him.
BACK AT THE FRONT someone sniggers.
James spins round. SILENCE. Someone sniggers behind him.
James spins back round and approaches the salesman.
Then why you cats laughing?
I wasn't laughing. It wasn't me.
James stares at the man. Turns on his heel.
He storms out of the building and across the lot to his
THE PAYBACK starts: insanely tight, deep funk.
INSURANCE SALESMAN (CONT'D)
I'm telling you that was James
Outside a window behind the seminar presenter, James can be
seen rifling through the back of his pickup truck.
The woman who used his bathroom watches James' every move.
Look, I suggest we just continue...
OK. So. How does the program work?
Initially, participating dentists
undergo an extensive credentialing
process which, if approved, allows
customers to pay the minimum
deductible allowed and the
remainder is insured. But with non-
participating dentists the cost per
visit is much higher and comes
completely out of pocket. So some
people may want a high deductible
because they have more to cover,
but most common folks simply want
the lowest possible plan... and
remember our key takeaway!?
Entire seminar in UNISON.
We must accommodate the specific condition of-
The office door flies open. James comes back in with a
OK listen up people.
The room goes still and completely silent.
Being it's Sunday and all I'm gone
ask each of you to imagine you're
sittin' in church right now. While
today's sermon may be good they's
something else on your mind. You
realize you gotta take a shit.
Real bad. And you don't want to
shit at the church house, naw sir.
So you just sit there and think
about getting home to your own
toilet in your own master bath on
Beech Island, South Carolina. I
gotta a bidet in my master bath.
Love my bidet. And a big pretty
oval tub too.
James spins around to man.
You got a bidet, Sir?
He shakes his head. James looks to a woman.
She shakes her head.
Well you gotta get you one. You all
gotta get you a bidet. Are y'all
sure its really Sunday today?
A woman nods.
What was just saying... Oh, that's
right. Yes! You gotta take shit.
So, after church, you speed back
home and you run like hell to the
house scared you ain't gonna make
it. But you do. Now imagine
unhitching your pants as your open
your bathroom door. And then you
see me. James Brown. Sittin' on
your master toilet taking a break.
What would you do?
More sniggers from all over the room. James raises his gun
James accidentally blasts an enormous hole in the ceiling.
SCREAMS AS EVERYONE HITS THE DECK. James looks up the the
hole in the ceiling.
Good God. Tear up the devil. I'm
gone have to get that fixed.
James looks to the gun unsure of how it went off.
Now I'm a busy man, and I'm
guessin' you cats are too. But
someone has abused a personal
convenience. Now I ask you nicely.
I'm gone ask you again. Which one
of you gentlefolk hung a number two
in my commode?
James approaches the salesman.
Was it you, Sir? Was it you?!
I ain't gone shoot nobody, son.
Then, as if told by God, James spins around and locks eyes
with the woman who used his bathroom. He approaches her.
Ma'am, it was you wasn't it? You
took a break in my bathroom, didn't
She shakes her head and begins to cry.
Yes sir, Mister Brown.
Yes you did. Now, don't cry. It's
gone be okay.
James lowers the gun to the floor. As he tries to console
You had to use the toilet. You saw
an opportunity and you took it.
Yeah, I got mad but, Lady, you did
right by yourself. I've spent my
whole life doing right by myself.
I'm James Brown and I made a
JAMES LOOKS TO CAMERA AND TALKS DIRECTLY TO US:
You cats may not own my records but
you can bet every record you have
got a piece of me in `em. Ain't
nobody singing today that ain't
been touched by James Brown.
James turns back to the woman.
So, Lady, you did right by
yourself. And there ain't no other
way to live. You understand me?
The woman nods. James turns back to us.
You understand me?
Police sirens are heard in the distance. James turns to his
truck outside the window.
EXT. COUNTRY ROAD. DAY.
SUDDENLY - a pickup truck passes at a hundred MPH. FOLLOWED A
MOMENT LATER by two city cop cars.
INT. PICKUP TRUCK. DAY.
James rocks in his seat. Odd guttural sounds. In the
rearview. The two cop cars close upon him. Hits the gas,
HELICOPTER SHOT: EXT. ON RAMP - I-20. DAY
The pickup truck skids onto the interstate where two city
cars are now joined by two Highway Patrol cars.
EXT. STREET LEVEL
A police car pulls up next to him, the officer aiming a
weapon and flagging the car down. James sees him and
Don't hurt me. Don't stop me. Don't
He rams the cop car. It retreats.
EXT. I-20. DAY
Three prowlers and a highway patrol RV form a road block. A
high engine note pierces the air. The police take up firing
INT. PICKUP TRUCK. DAY
James sees the roadblock ahead.
Don't stop me. Don't stop me.
He smashes through road block. The windscreen is blown out
with gunfire showering James with glass.
He glances in the mirror as wind whips around the truck:
Up ahead another police car sits in the middle of the road. A
policeman steps out from the car firing his pistol at the
James makes a hard right down a dirt road.
INT/EXT. PICKUP TRUCK. GRAVEL PITTS, DAY
James's front tires are blown out. James struggles to control
the skidding vehicle.
EXT. GRAVEL PITTS, DAY
The pickup truck rolls to a stop. Five various police cars
from different jurisdictions enter the Pitts from five
different entrances and take up positions blocking exit
INT. PICKUP TRUCK. DAY.
James sits staring straight ahead. Breathing hard. A loud
hailer off screen: "EXIT THE VEHICLE WITH YOUR HANDS ABOVE
YOUR HEAD." James opens the door scattering glass onto the
Around the perimeter armed police tense. Safety's off.
Keeping James in their sights. A young officer sweats
James stands next to the bullet riddled wreckage of his
pickup, hands above his head. He leans back and sings to the
"I Don't Feel Noways Tired".
EXT. AUGUSTA COUNTRY CLUB. NIGHT. 1942 JAMES 9 YRS
A wide, opulent looking club has taken residence in a huge
antebellum home with wrap around porches.
A crowd of Deep Southern white folk, in cocktail attire, fill
both levels of the porches and spill out onto the lawn
surrounding a BOXING RING.
A GROUP OF SIX BLACK MUSICIANS FORM A DIXIELAND BAND. Without
inspiration they play methodically to the all white crowd.
A FAT, SWEATING ANNOUNCER, walks into the ring, grasps a
Aaannd now folks, before the main
event, the Augusta Country club is
proud to present to y'all it's
Annual Charity ex-travagaaanza..!
Ladies and gentlemen..The Battle...
Music. HALF A DOZEN BLACK BOYS enter the ring. Hyped. A glove
is pulled onto one hand. The other tied behind their backs.
They are blind-folded.
A WHITE MAN with a BUCKET OF WHITE PAINT daubs a number onto
each boy's chest.
DING! DING! The boys stagger out, blindly swinging. The crowd
roars, bangs the tables as they stumble, lurch, in the baying
The smallest of the boys stands stiff. He struggles to throw
much less land a punch. The number "One" is painted on his
A much bigger boy, "Number Six" punches "One" in the gut.
"One" goes down but then slowly rises.
The dixieland band watches the exploitation with both horror
and intrigue as they can't help but wonder who will be left
The band's sound begins to change. It becomes as energized
as the match before them. They sink into the rhythm, and the
effect is one of heightened energy.
The drummer begins to pull the beat and the bass player
instantly follows suit finding the new pocket. The drummer
and bass player share a glance.
This inspired pocket soars across the lawn and into the ears
of boy "Number One".
We are now transported into the mind of "Number One".
Complete silence except for the sound of the band. Then one
by one all other instruments fade away leaving only the drum
James turns to the band and lowers his blindfold from over
one eye. He catches eyes with the drummer and bass player.
The drummer nods at James and smiles.
James nods back and closes his eye. The sound morphs again as
"Number One" begins to arrange the music in his head to his
James opens his one eye and sees only the drummer and bass
player on the stage. They are now playing what we and James
are hearing in his head.
James covers his eye again with the blindfold and forms a
slight smile. His stance becomes more relaxed. His body
begins to swing and morph like rubber.
He throws a punch. IT LANDS.
ALL AT ONCE "Number One" dances forward, dips, swings and
sweetly CONNECTS to "Number Four". As the vanquished head
hits the canvas, the victor, "Number One", bloodied, panting
in the waves of laughter and summer heat, stands alone.
As the boys hit the deck and are deemed "out" they are pulled
off the mat and carried to the bed of a parked truck.
"Three" goes down. Then "Two" and "Five". A ringside punter
THUMPS the canvas with a fistful of dollars, berating him.
People screaming with laughter. Only "One" and "Six" remain.
Panicky, jerky, they stalk one another. Listening.
"Number One" connects with lighting speed. "Six" removes his
blindfold, jumps off the ring and runs across the lawn
disappearing into the nearby woods.
"Number One" stands victorious. The crowd goes wild. "Number
One" absorbs the admiration as he slowly pushes up the
blindfold and looks toward the bandstand.
All the band members have returned to the stand as in reality
they always were. They clap wildly as the beat and rhythm of
this budding continues in his head.
THE EIGHT YEAR OLD JAMES BROWN LOOKS RIGHT AT US. A level
gaze. That million dollar smile, teeth coated with blood.
THE BEAT CONTINUES OVER...
CLOSE UP ON:
The June 1968 cover of Look Magazine: A silhouette portrait
of James: "IS THIS THE MOST IMPORTANT BLACK MAN IN AMERICA?"
EXT. PLANE. VIETNAM. DUSK. 1968 JAMES 35YRS
A rickety old twin prop army plane flies low over the jungle.
SUDDENLY below, tracer fire BURSTS out of the canopy.
INT. PLANE. VIETNAM. IN THE BELLY
Marva Whitney, Clyde Stubblefield, Jimmy Nolen, MACEO PARKER,
Waymond Reed and BOBBY BYRD sit in a line opposite a line of
soldiers. The soldiers hold rifles. The band hold
PING! PING! PING!
What was that?
They glance at each other nervously. PING! PING! PING!
OUTSIDE - A rocket propelled grenade streaks up out of the
canopy and explodes near the plane, rocking it violently.
BELOW - The world explodes, as Napalm sears across a football
pitch size of jungle, a hundred feet below.
They're shooting at us.
Please, Lord! Please!
They look at the soldiers, who are also nervous. Marva looks
out the window. Nothing but fire below.
Oh. My. God.
Drummond taps the soldier opposite. Points out the window. A
soldier looks out, turns white.
IN THE COCKPIT - The pilots wrestle to keep the craft
upright. Between them, a completely unruffled James Brown is
See Captain Jenkins, the James
Orchestra is a 22 piece, but the
Gov'ment or the Army, powers't be
say I can only bring six fellas.
Right now I got 16 pieces sittin'
in a Bangkok hotel. If I'm paying
my own money to be here, and I am,
I oughtta bring as many cats as I
want. Breaks my heart, son. `cause
I know they all wish they was here
Mr. Brown, it's probably best if
you go back now.
We gone be fine, Captain.
We're under attack Mr. Brown.
Settle down, Captain. James Brown
was born dead but then I breathed.
God didn't want me then and he sure
ain't gonna call me back now.
The soldier from the back rushes in.
The port engine's on fire.
The PILOT looks back.
How far to Tan Son?
IN THE BELLY - Everyone is frozen. Saying prayers. Moaning.
Marva, fellas, Listen up. We under
No shit, Mr. Brown.
James flashes five fingers at Maceo four times.
Watch that mouth, Maceo. That's
twenty dollars right there.
The plane suddenly lurches forty five degree and lets out an
awful groan. Everyone screams. Except James who is still
standing like rubber even though he wasn't holding onto
anything. Bobby sees this.
Mr. Byrd, I've decided to open
tonight's show with "I Got The
James demeanor somehow gives comfort to Bobby. James nods at
Bobby and smiles.
How's that sound?
Sounds good, Mr. Brown.
Bobby smiles at James. The plane lurches again, Bobby
21 INT. HANGER - SAME TIME 21
A very white female news journalist talks into a camera, as
scores of rowdy troops rush toward a make shift stage. Next
to her, a group of BLACK SOLDIERS wait to be interviewed.
Soul Brother Number One James
Brown, the Hardest Working Man in
Show business is embarking on a
tour with a difference.
NEWS JOURNALIST (CONT'D)
In association with the USO, Mr.
Brown is playing a series of shows
for battle fatigued US troops
A BLACK INFANTRYMAN grabs the mic and looks into the camera.
BLACK INFANTRYMAN 1
80 percent of 9th Division is
brothers. We been here 2 years.
What do we get as thanks?
Another Infantryman leans in.
BLACK INFANTRYMAN 2
BLACK INFANTRYMAN 1
Country and fuckin' Western. But
James is ours, man. He's comin'.
Bringin' some fuckin' soul,
The other Infantryman grabs the mic.
BLACK INFANTRYMAN 2
Welcome to the shit, nigger!
The Infantrymen laugh and slap hands. As they walk toward
We can't use that.
INT. PLANE. IN THE COCKPIT.
I'm losing her. We're going Oh mother of Christ!
The wounded beast judders in low over the canopy and starts
sinking into it when the jungle suddenly clears.
EXT. TAN SON NHUT AIRFIELD 9TH DIV INFANTRY CAMP OUTSIDE
NOM PEI. JUNE 1968. SAME TIME
The damaged plane breaks out over the field with both engines
smoking. Barely regaining control, the pilots make a very
MUSIC: "There Was A Time" begins.
Army personnel race toward the plane. Next to the runway an
old hanger is teeming with soldiers.
EXT. AIRFIELD. MOMENTS LATER
Biblically pissed, James and Bobby walk from the flaming
plane alongside CORPORAL DOOLEY.
Behind them, in deep shock, Maceo and the rest of the band,
Welcome to Bear Cat, Mr. Brown.
Corporal Dooley. USO Liaison
officer. Can I first say I'm a big,
big fan of your mus-
You in charge when Bob Hope was
Mr. Byrd, You think Bob Hope's
plane got shot down?
No sir, Mr. Brown.
As they approach the hanger filled with troops, a chant
James Brown! James Brown! James
Sorry about the plane trouble-
Plane trouble? They tried to kill
James Brown today. You wanna go
down in history as the man who
killed the funk?
James and crew near the rear stage entrance of the hanger.
About the show, if you could just
keep it to 25, 30 min-
Whoa, whoa, whoa.
(under his breath)
Corporal, let me tell you the first
thing about James Brown. The first
thing is James Brown don't tell no
man his business. He won't tell you
how to take Pnom Ridge or how you
screwed up the Tet offensive. I
don't tell you how to fight your
war Corporal. So don't tell me
when, where or for how long I can
25 INT. HANGAR. CONTINUOUS. 25
HUNDREDS OF HOT, STEAMING TROOPS ROAR, like a thousand space
rockets taking off at once. It's awesome, shaking the stage.
James Brown! James Brown! James
James and Bobby enter the hanger. We walk with them and strut
up six steps and onto the stage.
Bobby stands back and watches as James grabs the mic and
looks out over the sea of faces.
Sorry we're late. Are you cats
The troops roar even louder.
James turns straight to camera, flashes his smile and talks
directly to us.
Are you cats ready?
EXT. A PINE WOOD. 1941. DAY. JAMES 8 YRS
A cold fog hangs in the fading sunlit trees.
Eight year old James stands alone in a forest clearing. He
looks all around him.
He scans the trees. He's alone.
SUDDENLY in the trees he glimpses someone. A woman. 30. Red
dress. She giggles as she scampers from behind one tree to
another. She peeps round. He beams.
He chases her. She's laughing.
You can't catch me!
Each time he loses her she peers from behind a tree he
squeals in delight but she disappears. He is suddenly alone.
She jumps out from behind a tree and scoops him up.
He squeals and laughs in her arms.
EXT. WOODED PATH. DAY. 1941
Susie and James walk hand in hand.
Momma, I'm hungry.
You ain't hungry baby. That feeling
in yo tummy?
That feelin' is the spirit inside
you. He's in there tickling your
belly right now cause he knows you
such a good boy. You ain't hungry.
He's just trying to make you laugh.
Susie begins tickling James. James starts to laugh.
Are you a good boy?
He tries to speak but can't from laughing.
I can't hear you.
Susie continues to tickle James.
I'm a good boy!
28 EXT. SHACK. BROWN FAMILY HOME. DEEP WOODS. SOUTH CAROLINA. 28
Cold. James sits on the porch with a stick. He continually
beats the stick on the porch post forming a beat.
He suddenly stops as a man in a thick worn work coat and
heavy boots, is approaching singing the blues to himself.
The man puts his pack down, ruffles the kid's hair, says
nothing and walks inside.
Where you been? I been sittin' here
for nine days with your child. You
nine days late Joe. Where you been?
Working turpentine, baby. Chippin'
James peers around the opened door and watches.
Where you been? Gamblin? You spent
the money again?
DON'T LIE TO ME JOE! Give me some
I ain't lyin'!
Give me some money!
Susie tries to put her hands in Joe's pocket. He shoves her
hand to his side.
I'm here all alone here for four
weeks. And we got nothing. Nothing!
Susie. Shut your sweet mouth get
those panties off baby.
Joe grabs Susie and carries her into the cabin.
28A INT. CABIN. CONTINUOUS. 28A
Joe and Susie kiss and begin tearing at each others clothes.
Joe's been gone A LONG TIME.
As they lower to the bed, we see James watching through the
James soon turns his head and walks off into the woods.
EXT. FOREST. BARNWELL. DAY. LATER THAT DAY
James walks down a worn path deep in the woods singing a song
to himself. He suddenly stops.
There, about ten feet up in the air, hanging in a tree is a
black man. Aged about eighteen.
The child stares up at the lynched man who is dressed in nice
clothes. Then to his feet within beautiful leather shoes.
Silence. He looks at him carefully.
James reaches his small hand up to touch the suspended foot
of the man. Pulls on his laces. His shoe comes off.
James drops the shoe and removes the other.
29 OMITTED 29
INT. DARK CORRIDOR. DAY. TAMI SHOW 1964
BEN BART, 50's, running along the corridor backstage. He
reaches the door with JAMES BROWN written on it. Outside sits
an enormous, middle aged black woman, knitting.
I need to speak to James.
He resting, Pop.
Gertrude, it's important.
He resting. Nobody allowed in.
Ben offers Gertrude some money. It's a twenty. She takes it.
Gertrude kisses Bart on the cheek. She opens the door.
Mr. Brown will see you now, Mr.
We go inside with Ben. Sitting slumped, back to us, on a
burnished throne in front of a lit mirror, James Brown.
HENRY STALLINGS attends to the towering bouffant on James'
head. Bobby Byrd sits in a chair next to James going over a
James stares at Ben in the mirror.
Gertrude walks in.
Yes, Mr. Brown.
I said I didn't want to be
(holds out his hand)
That'll be twenty dollars.
Gertrude walks over and hands James the same twenty spot Ben
gave her. Ben winks at Gertrude as she exits.
James, I just spoke to the
producers. They've requested the
Rolling Stones close the show.
James looks confused.
Rolling Stones, James. You'll go on
right before them. It'll be you,
then the Rolling Stones top of the
The Rolling Stones, huh?
James to Bobby.
Then why we here, Bobby?
We here to play, James.
You're here because they want you
here, James. You're James Brown! I
want you here. Because this isn't
the chitlin' circuit man. We're
done with that shit. This is an
audience full of white faces and
you're gonna make them love you.
You're just not closing the show.
His eyes focus.
BEN BART (CONT'D)
James. Now don't start. Let it go.
This don't matter, James.
THE DOOR FLIES OPEN. JAMES BROWN STRUTS DOWN THE CORRIDOR AS
BEN BART FOLLOWS.
The Rolling Stones ain't even had a
hit record here.
They pass several dressing rooms along the way.
They ain't even ever played in
America. Have they?
James passes a dressing room where a group is rehearsing.
They're just kids. In a year from
now we won't even know who they
are. It's business, James.
And it's my business to hear what
they got to say about this.
He passes another dressing room with a group of guys
James stops, glances at the VERY WHITE CALIFORNIA GROUP and
then to Ben.
James is off again. He rounds the corner walks straight up to
the Stones dressing room. On the door it says THE ROLLING
A guy on the door stands but knows he can't stop James Brown
who walks straight in. Ben stops at the door and watches.
Fellas, how ya doin'. Mr. Jagger.
Mr. Richard. Hear you boys are
closing the show. Did you know
Uh..That's what they're saying.
Yeah. They just told us.
Mick looks over to Keith and the rest of the Rolling Stones.
Uh-hmm. Well, I was told I'm
closing the show. That's why I flew
Mick leads James to a couch. They sit.
Listen man. We're filming a movie
here today. This isn't live.
I know that.
What I mean is, the order in which
we play makes no difference.
They're going to edit and arrange
the show any way they want later.
James raises and shakes Mick's hands. James shakes a couple
of the other guys hands.
Y'all have a great show, fellas.
We march out with James. He turns to Ben.
I'll be on stage in five. They
better be ready. And the white
Yes Sir, Mr. Brown.
JAMES struts to the side of the stage. On a television
backstage we see a live feed of:
ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: THE SUPREMES FINISHING THEIR PERFORMANCE.
James waits in the wings. On the other side of the stage, the
Rolling Stones watch. James flashes his trademark smile. They
all wave back.
JAN AND DEAN approach the microphone and introduce the
ZAP -a white follow spot burns into James as he stands head
bowed. Check jacket, waistcoat, black pipes and mirror boots.
He throws his head back, steps forward and the groove starts.
The screams rise to a deafening pitch-
He's already on the move, in a snake hipped side slide, mash
potatoes, up on one leg, level with the mike, spin and BAM!
You got your high-heel sneakers on-
The teens in the audience lose it. Bobby Byrd and the Flames
in immaculate tuxedos snap and step in time.
You know you out of sight-
IN THE WINGS - The Stones and Ben Bart watch a television
being fed the show in real time.
A big smile crosses Ben's face.
CLOSE ON TELEVISION/INSERT ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE
INTERCUT FILMED STAGE AND ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE OF JAMES AND THE
FLAMES ON TELEVISION.
Say I...I...I...I love you so!
ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE: Teenagers shake their heads completely in
the thrall of the minutely controlled and manipulated
frustration and reward.
BACK STAGE - James stalks off past the Stones and Ben.
Keith Richards is slack jawed. Ben swallows a laugh. James
continues on. We go with him.
Welcome to America.
James looks right at us. Sweating. Focused. Wide awake.
CLOSE ON TELEVISION/INSERT ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE
The Rolling Stones begin their first song. TIME IS ON MY SIDE
The crowd goes wild. A sea of white faces screaming for Mick.
James is watching the monitor. His face registers a
realization. James stays on the Stone's as he talks to us.
CLOSE ON JAMES MOUTH IN PROFILE SURROUNDED BY BLACK AND WHITE
The British Invasion make a man
strong. Make him stand up. You
ain't never been down how ya gonna
get on up?
James turns to us with an even deeper intensity.
I can't never quit cause it get
hard. You quit, you going
backwards. You going backwards,
you dead. So, I take it. But I take
it and flip it. I go forward. And I
INT. SHACK. WOODS. DAY. 1941. JAMES 8 YRS
Fall day. Under the eves, James climbs round the side of the
house. He reaches the corner to see HIS MOTHER STANDING ON
THE PORCH of the cabin, a suitcase packed. Her eye is
You leavin' you take your child,
girl. You his momma. I don't need
no hungry child.
Confused, James approaches. Looks up at his mother.
You keep him. You can feed him. I
(She holds him, kisses him)
Bye, baby. You be good.
She leaves. Joe calls after her.
That's right. Why don't you go try
to sell your ass on Twigg Street.
That's right. Buy yourself a dress.
Maybe I pay you a visit.
Alone with his son, Joe stares at him. The boy stares back.
INT/EXT. SHACK. DAY. 1941
A MORNING IN THE CABIN. James watches his father silently
pack a few meager belongings into a sack.
Be back in a week or so. Mind you
don't makes no mess.
James runs over to the glassless window to watch his father
lead a mule, barrels on its back, away into the woods.
INT. SHACK. NIGHT. 1941
Wind howls and blows the door open. Shivering, Young James
pulls a chair across the door of the shack and makes a nest
of blankets under the bed. He crawls in.
34 TIME LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY OF NIGHT 34
35 EXT. SHACK. DAY. 1941 35
Morning. James tries to fetch water from a stream. He pulls a
bucket via a rope. The bucket tips over and spills the
EXT. PRODUCE STAND. 1941
James approaches a woman who's selling produce. Annoyed, she
picks up a over-ripened tomato and throws it to James' feet.
James picks up the tomato and walks away.
EXT. WOODS. DILAPIDATED CABIN. MOMENTS LATER
James approaches a dilapidated cabin that has been flattened
by a fallen tree. He raises his stick and begins tapping it
on the cabins rusted tin roof.
Slowly he begins to work out a simple, familiar tune. He
begins to stomp his feet, move his hips.
38 TIME LAPSE PHOTOGRAPHY HERE - LEAVES BEGIN TO CHANGE 38
INT. SHACK. DAY - 10 WEEKS LATER. 1941
Joe's back. Fully bearded. He unpacks his sack onto the bed.
In the doorway appears the boy. Half naked. Covered in mud.
Its clearly been weeks rather than days he's been alone.
Look at you boy. You go clean
yourself up `fore you come in here.
Int. SHACK. KITCHEN TABLE. DAY.
James sits opposite his father at the table. Joe eats and
hums and sings a blues tune, No More My Lord.
James beats his stick on the leg of the table perhaps to join
in and impress his dad.
Joe acknowledges the beat that James is creating. For a
brief moment, father and son are making music together.
Joe quits singing but James continues beating the stick on
Quit that. Driving me crazy.
(James taps the stick quieter.
(Staring at his father.)
"No more my Lord"
I said stop!
Joe gets up. Takes the stick and snaps it in two. James
stares hard at his father's face.
You gawkin' at me?
James stays on Joe. Joe quickly rises and yanks James out of
INT./EXT. SHACK. DAY. 1941
From outside the shack, we hear the sounds of abuse.
JOE BROWN (O.C.)
Stop crying. I said stop crying.
Suddenly the shack door opens, and James runs out.
He sprints full pelt through the woods. He comes to a
clearing. He slows, approaches us and suddenly stops,
breathing heavily, he stops and looks straight at us.
BLACKOUT. A THUMPING RHYTHM BEGINS.
Beneath his tears a smile emerges...
42 INT. HOLLWOOD SOUND STAGE - DAY - 1964 JAMES 31YRS 42
CLOSE ON: An argyle sweater. The intro to I GOT YOU (I FEEL
GOOD) ramps up.
We widen to see James Brown singing.
I feel good! And I knew that I
Even wider to reveal BOBBY BYRD and the rest of the flames
dancing in sound stage dressed to resemble a Ski Lodge.
FRANKIE AVALON and THIRTY VERY WHITE EXTRAS dance around
James and the flames. Everyone is in argyle and bright
To the side, FILM CREW MEMBERS AND A DIRECTOR do their best
to keep up with the rhythm. James is killing it. His
legendary moves in full force.
I feel nice. Like sugar and spice.
SLOW MOTION PHOTOGRAPHY
Music stops. (Tom Newman theme here) James watches the cast,
crew and Flames doing their thing for camera.
James turns to us and speaks.
Take it and flip it.
END SLOW MOTION. END TOM NEWMAN THEME.
James removes his sweater and begins dancing and singing
again but now to a faster version of "I GOT YOU". He smiles
at us, looks into our eyes. We push in tight.
We pull back to reveal James now singing this song in the
future at The Olympia show. He's sporting a "natural".
Beautiful girls dancing behind him.
Flash- We are back to "Ski Party". Now the boring extras are
up on their feet. They dance with precision the way Mr. Brown
would prefer. Just for us, James has transformed the "Ski
Party" into something way cooler.
James' feet slide and move him back toward the door of the
ski lodge set.
I feel good and I knew that I would
now. So good. So good. Cause I
James moves outside the door and does a split in the pile of
We are now back to reality. James is again wearing the
sweater. The extras are now seated and clapping in a corny
The stage bell rings. Over a loudspeaker-
That was great James.
Frankie Avalon runs up to James. James remains in his split.
Wow, James. You've got some groovy
moves my friend.
Thank you, Mr. Avalon. And please
call me, Mr. Brown
As Frankie nods and walks away, James catches eyes with BOBBY
BYRD, 30. Bobby stares quizzically at James as he remains on
the floor in his split.
Get up, James.
How many times have I done this
A thousand, maybe five thousand.
Exactly, and now the first and only
time I rip my pants has to be in
front of all those white people.
Bobby cracks up.
In white boy sweater.
My trumpet, bass, and drums are
spread out all over this cold
James begins to laugh.
Go get my towel!
You got it boss.
43 OMITTED 43
INT. CAR. 1949 DAY. JAMES 16 YRS
A man's three piece suit hangs in the rear of a sedan.
SMASH. An elbow shatters the back door glass. A hand comes
inside and pulls the suit out of the car.
44AA EXT. RURAL ROAD. MOMENTS LATER. 44AA
A picturesque country road flanked by high, earthen
embankments lined with trees.
James sudden bolts out of the trees with the stolen suit and
runs down the embankment.
Just then a police car speeds down the road towards him.
James drops the suit and runs to the opposite embankment.
As James tries to climb the embankment, the police car stops,
two officers get out.
James can't get a footing on the steep embankment. We now
see that James is wearing the lynched man's shoes.
CLOSE ON SHOES:
Digging deeper and deeper in the soil embankment. BLAM! A
James stops climbing and turns to see two guns pointed at
him. He slides back down the embankment and raises his
FLASH! James gets his mug shot. Front and side.
EXT. RICHMOND COUNTY JAIL - THAT NIGHT
CLOSE ON: James speaking through bars.
Know what that means, Big Junior?
Means they can try me in Superior
Court. Means they can send my
juvenile ass down for a man's term.
3 maybe 4 years.
Reveal a young man, BIG JUNIOR, 25, standing on the lawn by
the jail house holding a lantern. He looking up to James on
the second floor speaking out of the window.
For robbing a suit?
You reach my daddy?
He's in the Army, James.
I know he's in the Army. So you
gotta go find him.
Big Junior looks to the ground and nods.
What'd Aunt Honey say?
Aunt Honey say she can't help you
right now. Not this week.
Go find my daddy, Big. Please!
Big Junior sighs, really uncomfortable.
Aunt Honey already talked to him,
James. Your daddy say it's a bad
James fills with panic.
So, he knows I'm here?
Big looks all around, everywhere except at James.
He say ain't nothing he can do. Got
money problems. Sorry.
He shrugs and walks away.
INT. CELL. NIGHT - CONTINUOUS
James turns from the window. He goes to the sink of his tiny
cell, heaving for breath. He looks at himself in the tiny
Don't cry Junior. Don't cry now.
James begins expertly tapping his sliding his feet on the
floor. A more developed version of the tune he arranged in
his head during the boxing match is heard. James stares at us
in the mirror. He smiles.
And you were thinking of this as a
INT. PAROLE REVIEW BOARD, ALTO REFORM SCHOOL. 1952. DAY
James, 19 years old, sits on a bare wooden chair. James'
aunt, HONEY, 40, is in attendance. Next to her sit two young
black women dressed very sexy.
So you want to be a singer?
Oh no Sir. Truth is I ain't really
into all that so much. Not no more.
Five white adults sit behind a long table, studying him.
But the other boys, they call you
It's just a old nickname is all.
I'm looking for something stable.
Steady. I want to be a Mechanic.
So first a singer and now a
Yes Sir. There's a fella I know
back in Augusta, he owns a garage,
he said he could find me a job if-
You can't go back to Augusta.
In the event of parole, the Court
in Augusta ruled you not be allowed
to set foot in Richmond County til
the full term of your sentence.
James is silent. Aunt Honey locks eyes with the Warden and
Do you know anyone outside Augusta
who could act as your parole
sponsor? Any family? Associates? Is
there anywhere else you could go?
Aunt Honey and the girls raise their skirts up there legs
ever so slightly with subtle sexual gestures.
The Warden gives Aunt Honey and the girls a disapproving
STAMP! A red stamp hammers down - REFUSED.
INT. HALL. ALTO. DAY. JAMES 19 YRS
A BAND, The Starlighters "entertains" the inmates. A tall
black kid in a white tux, flanked by four other boys.
We the Gospel Starlighters, from
right here in Toccoa. Three Four..
The vocal group rip into a juiced up "Mary Don't You Weep".
And its good. James watches intently. The music plays over...
James begins to sing along and dance. Two rows back, a huge,
badass looking kid is staring. James turns and stares
The big kid walks up to James.
You eyeballin' me, Music-Box?
The big kid punches James in the gut. James struggles to his
feet and punches the BIG KID and fights back fearlessly.
All hell breaks loose. Two rough factions break out and the
melee spreads. James picks up a chair and throws it at the
big kid. He ducks.
INT. INFIRMARY, ALTO. LATER THAT DAY
Bobby sits in a chair outside the infirmary. He holds a cold
press to his nose.
James, bruised and torn but apparently victorious is led by a
warden into the infirmary to cheers from his friends. He's
seated next to Bobby and cuffed to the chair.
What happened to you?
Someone threw something.
Gee, that's too bad.
They sit there. James shrugs.
Walk in the jungle sometimes you
get bit by a snake.
I'll try an' remember that.
They sit there.
Say. What's that song you done?
We only done half of it. "Mary
Don't You Weep" is an old gospel,
man. You ain't heard that before?
Everybody be doin' it.
I ain't heard nothing since my
radio got busted. That's a cool
song bro'. You sung it great. That
sounded real sweet.
Crowd sure went crazy.
(James smiles. Then:)
You like music?
Only thing keeps me sane in here.
How long you in for?
Five to thirteen years.
Bobby moves his chair an inch or two away.
What did you do?
Robbed a suit.
A nurse leads Bobby inside the exam room.
They give you five to thirteen
(Shakes his head)
That's time man.
James turns to the doorway and continues talking to Bobby as
the nurse tends to his nose.
Tell me about it.
You get parole?
Board say I need a permanent family
address and a job. But see I don't
know no folks here.
Where yo' folks at?
My Daddy's in the army. And my
momma... well, she left.
Sorry to hear that.
They sit there.
Seriously. You think I sung it
James looks at Bobby. He moves his seat a bit closer to the
You got that swing feel. Hittin' it
late. Buh, dum, Bop. That's what a
James rises up, pulling the chair with him.
See without that feel, song just
sit there. Don't move. You gotta
fill it with something. You know
what I'm sayin'?
Suddenly James breathes in deep, and sings "Mary Don't You
Weep". It's sweet, hard, deep, raw all at the same time.
James holds the chair and begins to dance.
The nurse shuts the door. Bobby and James stay on each other
James' talent hits Bobby like a ten pound hammer between the
eyes. A warden forces James to his chair. We hear one
unforgettable line of the song before we...
ESTABLISHING. TOCCOA STREET. THE BYRD HOUSE. 1952. DAY.
He can do Roy Brown and The
Dominoes and Louis Jordan and
INT. BYRD HOUSE. KITCHEN. DAY
Bobby, panting, petitions his impassively busy mother.
-you should hear'm holler momma!
You ain't heard nothing LIKE IT. He
sings every day in chapel. He's a
very, very religious boy Momma.
He could sing in St. Stephens!
Bobby. We got us enough mouths to
feed an' enough butts to clothe.
(Yelling out the door)
Daryl! Sarah! Get down here!
He sings every day in chapel. He's
a very, very religious boy Momma.
He could sing in St. Stephens!
Since Old Henry passed you been shy
a baritone...he a showstopper.
Momma? This is it. It's like a
miracle. This is what Jesus wants!
He knows he's over-done it.
Jesus speak to Bobby Byrd now. He
tell you that himself?
Momma, he could be in there another
ten year just `cause he got no
folks. He got no-one.
Bobby. The answer is NO. Now, go on
outta here and get cleaned up.
Crestfallen, he plays his final card.
What's that thing you always told
me, since I was real small. About
Mercy. What's that saying momma?
That thing you always say?
She glares at her son.
INT. BYRD HOUSE. DAY JAMES 19 YRS
Dinner at the Byrds. Mom, Pop, and Grandpa, sister SARAH, ten
year old brother DARYL, BOBBY.... and James. He's clearly
James' eyes dart around the well-appointed dining room with
its beautiful wallpaper and curtains hanging from a window.
James traces the lines of the curtain noticing its lace and
Like I always say.
"Its a sin to stand in Mercy's
Thank you, Mrs Byrd.
Grandpa stares hard and James for a moment. Then...
So what you in the pokey for?
You know how would have felt you
bringing this boy over here?
Big momma married you and you were
in the pokey before.
Bobby gets a look from his mom.
If I'm going to be forced to have a
jailbird in my house I at least
like to know what I'm dealing with.
James looks to Bobby.
No. He got a right to ask. I am a
jailbird. I've done wrong and I
gotta own up to that.
James turns to Bobby's grandfather.
I stole a man's three piece suit.
You want to know me? I tell ya.
My daddy is in the army. My momma
left when I was five. I'm skinny
but I'm strong. I can read a little
bit and I like to sing. That's
who's sittin' here.
James becomes emotional and sincere.
And I think God knew that when I
took that suit that I might end up
with you. I ain't never sat at a
table with such a fine group of
people in my life.
Sarah looks admiringly at James.
I used to wish I could put that
suit back, but now I'm here with
y'all. Fried chicken. Green beans.
Corn bread. Those nice curtains.
Grandpa Byrd turns to the curtains.
A house smells good. I'm happy I
stole that suit. And I thank you
for having me here.
Boy, pass them beans before you get
your bullshit all over them.
James is going to sing with us in
church this Sunday Sarah.
Really. Well maybe we could work up
a little harmony together.
Sarah turns to James and gives a tiny wink. James stops
52A INT. BYRD HOUSE. NEXT MORNING. 52A
Bobby Byrd sleeps in his bed. James sleeps in a cot that has
been brought into Bobby's room.
Grandpa Byrd enters the room holding a suit. He approaches
the sleeping James.
Startled, James and Bobby rise up from their pillows.
GRANDPA BYRD (CONT'D)
This out to fit ya.
Grandpa Byrd throws the suit on top of James and exits.
James smiles at his new suit.
INT. BYRD HOUSE. NEXT MORNING.
Bobby comes in with NAFLOYD and BABY ROY who are all dressed
There's coffee in the kitchen,
Nafloyd. Make yourselves at home.
Bobby vaults upstairs.
James. Come meet the band.
Opens a door. INSIDE James has Sarah pressed up against the
wall. They are having vigorous sex. James' pants are around
his ankles. Sarah's church dress is pushed up her body.
Sarah has her hand over James' mouth trying to keep him
Bobby throws it into reverse, shutting the door. Did he just
see that? A full gamut of emotions cross his face.
Mrs. Byrd starts up the stairs.
Sarah! I ain't tellin' you again.
Get down here.
Bobby panics. He crosses and meets his mother at the top of
She's coming, Momma. She's coming.
Go fix Nafloyd and the boys some
coffee. We got guests, Momma.
Mrs Byrd nods and heads down the stairs.
Nafloyd?! Where you boys at?
INT. ST. STEPHENS CHURCH. DAY.
A congregation watches as BOBBY, NAFLOYD, BABY ROY, SARAH AND
JAMES sing righteous gospel. "Steal Away To Jesus".
Above their heads a HOME-MADE SHEET-BANNER: "The Gospel
Bobby looks to Sarah and James with a searing gaze. Sarah
innocent, James really giving it up.
James steps out front. His voice soars sweetly over the
congregation. Bobby's gaze softens.
MRS. BYRD and GRANDPA watch on. Mrs. Byrd leans forward and
catches Bobby's eye. Gives a small nod of approval. Bobby's
smile is...more equivocal.
FLASHBACK: INT. SHACK. BARNWELL. DAY. 1942 JAMES 9 YRS
James is asleep in his bed. Alone. It's been a year after his
Suddenly, Joe approaches and throws a burlap sack at James.
Pack up. We leaving.
James wakes and sits up in bed. Joe is clean shaven and
wears his nicest shirt and neck tie.
JOE BROWN (CONT'D)
James waits a beat to make sure his father is gone.
James gets out of bed and crawls deep underneath. He backs
out holding the dead man's pair of shoes and places them in
the burlap sack.
57 EXT. AUNT HONEY'S HOUSE. LATER THAT DAY. 57
Joe and James walk down Twigg street. Joe pulls his donkey
along with them.
You miss your momma, boy?
JOE BROWN (CONT'D)
We gone fix that.
James flashes a hopeful smile.
EXT. TWIGG STREET, THE TERRY. DAY. 1942 JAMES 9 YRS
Red dirt street. Shacks. Joe and James walk around to the
back of "AUNT HONEY'S" house. The donkey has been tied to
Aunt Honey's fence.
We find Aunt Honey sitting a chair. She holds a small dog in
SEVEN PROSTITUTES wash clothes in tubs and hang them on a
line to dry.
Aunt Honey clearly runs the house. She rises from her chair.
Clearly she takes no shit.
..S'much appreciated Honey. Sure is
What the hell am I supposed to do
with that donkey, Joe?
Thought you could sell it.
I don't sell donkey, Joe. And
Jumpin' in the Army ain't gone make
this boy go away.
Joe looks away from Honey.
Look after yourself Junior.
Aunt Honey and James watch Joe cross the street and
Everybody gotta be somewhere.
What's your name, sugar?
Guess you Little Junior now.
Honey turns to a small two story building in the rear of the
AUNT HONEY (CONT'D)
A huge 15 year old boy comes out of the building and begins
walking down the stairs. This is the younger version of Big
Junior who we met outside the jail.
AUNT HONEY (TO JAMES) (CONT'D)
You show me you can bring it in you
an me ain't got no problem.
(as Junior approaches)
Junior'll show y'how to do.
EXT. THE TERRY. STREET. DAY.
Big Junior leads James away from Aunt Honey's. Big Junior
turns to James.
I do this...
(BJ touches his hat)
You say `Pretty girls', unnerstand?
So when they come, you be ready,
alright? I'll say-
Yessir, yessir, come on down the
street-we got sweet whiskey, we got
(touches his hat)
We got cards, we got dice, dancing-
(touches his hat again)
EXT. BUS STOP. THE TERRY. AUGUSTA. DAY. JAMES 9 YRS
Soldiers disembark from a troop Bus. Big Junior and James
stand on the platform playing and dancing in bare feet. The
soldiers ignore James.
We again begin to hear "James' Theme" in James' head. He
dances faster, sharper. The soldiers stop and take notice of
his ever sharping skill.
INT. AUNT HONEY'S PARLOR. LATER THAT NIGHT.
The Brothel is in full swing. Girls. Soldiers. Drunks.
Hustlers. Music. Ten soldiers scramble over only five
James hands over money to Aunt Honey. She bundles him up and
kisses him. He holds onto her tightly. She sets him down.
You done good Little Junior. You
the sweetest little boy in the
world. Hear me?
James nods as two soldiers begin fighting over one of the
prostitutes. Each pulling her in a different direction.
AUNT HONEY (CONT'D)
Go on in the kitchen. Find you a
scrap to eat.
Aunt Honey pulls out a knife that has been nuzzled inside her
bra. James watches as she fixes the situation.
INT. BARBERSHOP. THE NEXT DAY. JAMES 19 YRS 1952
The band has just gotten their hair-cut like Louis Jordan
(and James Brown).
Bobby Byrd looks at his hair in the mirror.
I don't know, James. This don't
look too gospel.
What you talkin' about? Your hair
is rising up to the Lord right?
Like a flame.
Nayfloyd looks deep into the mirror in front of him.
The flames of hell. We're the
Gospel Starlighters. We a gospel
group. This is R & B hair.
What you think "Caldonia" is,
We just playin' around with
"Caldonia" when we practicing.
That don't make us R & B. We still
INT. BIG BILL'S RENDEZVOUS. TOCCOA, 1954. NIGHT.
The place is packed. On stage the 22 year old Little Richard
is all over the piano, singing the hell out of Tutti Frutti.
AT THE BACK -- Bobby and the band stand in shock and awe.
I swear he's gonna break that
James is transfixed. Motionless. Soaking it up.
ON STAGE -- The song ends. The crowd explode.
We'll be back in ten to flip you
again! Whoooo! Yeah!
Bobby scans the crowd.
Look at these people James. Man!
I'm ready. You know'm saying? When
it gone be us up there?
James hasn't moved. He's still staring at the stage.
James turns to Bobby.
There's a piano. And a stage. And
(Looks at it)
Ain't no one on it.
What you talking about? We can't go
Why not? Like you said, Nafloyd,
"We just playin' around with
"Caldonia". So let's go play
Bobby nods, and James strides towards the stage and gets up.
The others look at each other: HOLY SHIT! and scramble after
him. James gestures to them to pick up instruments.
JAMES BROWN (CONT'D)
Ladies `n Gentlemen. Hope you're
enjoying the show.
Nafloyd speaks into his mic.
We're the Star-
James quickly interrupts.
We're the Famous Flames.
Nafloyd looks at Bobby.
James hollers. The Flames hit their queue, bang on, and they
TEAR INTO Caldonia. James loosens with every bar. Unhooks the
mic. Throws a move. As he hits the hook again the audience is
drawn to his energy like a magnet.
BACKSTAGE DOOR - Leaning against a wall backstage, Little
Richard looks up from his pocket mirror. Frowns.
What is that?
IN THE WINGS - the club manager watches on unsure what to do.
ON STAGE - James and Bobby, hollering into the same mic are
ripping the place up.
IN THE WINGS - Little Richard appears at his side, fuming.
LITTLE RICHARD (CONT'D)
Get those bitches off my stage!
Power to the stage is cut off. The performance is over but
the crowd go batshit. NAFLOYD, BABY ROY are shaking.
We the Flames.
BOBBY looks at JAMES. A new, knowing look. They bow as one,
turn, and walk offstage, CLEAN PAST a furious Little Richard.
James returns his glare with an even straighter one.
Just keepin' it warm for ya.
He walks past.
Hey. What's your name?
The Famous Flames.
James looks back levelly.
No. What's your name?
They look at each other. Neither blinks.
EXT. MALT SHOP. NIGHT.
2AM. James sits alone at a table off to the side of the order
Little Richard dressed as a chef comes out of the kitchen and
drops two burgers in front of them. James and Richard,
cigarette in a long holder, holds forth.
I play a show in Lafayette last
week twenty thirty girls pass clean
out. Need oxygen. I'm killing `em
James. They should lock me away. I
cut loose it's like a spaceship
land. Did I say I got a record out?
They drop it five times a day on
WIBB. Five times a day.
(He looks at James)
And I'm flippin' burgers. You know
LITTLE RICHARD (CONT'D)
Cause WIBB antenna reach 60 mile.
60 mile. This country is 5000 miles
top to toe and 7000 coast to coast.
You catch the wind, get a hit, a
real hit, every inch of that is
So how we catch the wind?
Richard smiles. Stops the waitress. All charm.
Sugar, may I borrow your pencil?
He takes a napkin. Starts writing on it. All business.
LITTLE RICHARD (CONT'D)
You got a hundred bucks?
Rob a liquor store. You take a
hundred bucks to WIBB in Macon. Ask
for Big Sauk. Say Richard sent you.
You make an acetate. Ten copies.
You send them to these people.
He writes them down. James watches.
It's that easy why don' you do it?
I already did. Baby, this is the
last time you're gone see my
beautiful ass 'cep on TV. Six
months the whole world gone know
me. I gone be bigger than
Cleopatra. It's written in the
stars James. Yes Sir. I'm gone have
the world on a string.
And that's when the trouble start.
And why that.
He fixes James. The air turns cold.
That when the Devil come. And he
ain't gonna be red with no fiery
tail. He gone be white. In a fancy
suit. And he gone look you in the
eye and he gonna ask what you want.
And you best not shake, nor
tremble. You best not blink one
Swats a fly on the table. James doesn't blink.
LITTLE RICHARD (CONT'D)
You gone be ready for him James?
You got it inside?
You tell me Richard. You tell me
what you see.
James stares at Richard, who stares the same stare back.
What happen to you?
He looks real hard.
LITTLE RICHARD (CONT'D)
I know what happened to me. What
happen to you?
James looks away.
65 OMITTED 65
66 OMITTED 66
INT. UPSTAIRS AT TWIGG STREET. DAWN. 1942 JAMES 9 YRS
James lies awake in a bed with four or five other sleeping
bodies. He looks out of the window. Dawn is breaking through
a cracked pane.
Way off in the distance he hears music and singing. He gets
out of bed.
He passes a room, TWO SOLDIERS wait their turn with one of
Aunt Honey's PROSTITUTES.
James reaches the front of the house. He looks to Honey, out
cold in a chair. A needle protrudes from her harm.
He walks out of the house passing several people asleep in
EXT. CHURCH/ DIRT ROAD. DAY
Early morning. James continue his walk towards the music.
69 INT. UNITED HOUSE OF PRAYER FOR ALL PEOPLE. DAY 69
A evangelical congregation lit up by the spirit.
SWEET DADDY GRACE: a suavely coiffed but ferocious southern
firebrand preacher wearing a suit made of dollar bills
screams and berates the congregation into a frenzy.
Do you love him?!
People are having fits on the floor, beating themselves.
Shrieking and weeping hallelujah.
DADDY GRACE (CONT'D)
(even higher pitched)
Say you love him!
Daddy raises his voice even louder ending in a shrilling
DADDY GRACE (CONT'D)
Say it louder for Jesus! Say it
Daddy Grace falls to the floor and is attended by alter boys
who drape a cape around his shoulders which he flings aside.
James looks around the room at the people. Then at the
70 EXT. TWIGG STREET BUS STOP. NIGHT. 1942 70
James stands silhouetted against the high beams of the
approaching troop Bus. James begins to dance to the theme in
his head. He's dancing differently now. Mimicking the moves
of Sweet Daddy Grace. James does a spilt in the beams of
71A INT. BYRD HOUSE. 71A
Mr. and Mrs. Byrd listen to Please Please Please on the
radio. They aren't pleased.
71B INT. AUNT HONEY'S BEDROOM. NIGHT 71B
Aunt Honey has just injected herself with Morphine. She
opens a drawer and places a needle and vial inside.
She crosses to her bed and lays down. Please Please Please
plays on a radio. Aunt Honey sings along and closes her
71C INT. CAR - NIGHT 71C
RALPH BASS drives and hears Please Please Please. A smile
crosses his face.
71D EXT. BOARDING HOUSE - LATER THAT NIGHT. 1954 71D
Establishing of exterior boarding house with the crappy
station wagon parked out front.
72-73 OMITTED 72-73
74 INT. BOARDING HOUSE - LATER THAT NIGHT. 74
All the flames asleep laying across as single bed in one
INT. BOARDING HOUSE. NIGHT.
James and Bobby sleep next to each other. James whispers to
Bobby. I can't make practice
Thursday. I gotta get married.
What are you talkin' about? Who you
That chick I met after the Stone
Mountain Show. Velma.
A silence falls.
What about my sister?
James flashes a devilish smile.
Oh, I'll still harmonize with Sarah
from time to time.
I ain't playin', James. How you
gone do all this?
Do all what?
Practice. The road. Makin' records.
Startin' a family.
I ain't startin' nothin', Bobby.
Except what we doin'.
James reaches under the bed and pulls out the acetate they
That us. We in there Bobby.
James holds the record close and studies it with Bobby.
That's all the money we got.
And some we don't.
But, it is beautiful. All those
little grooves. That's us. It's
Now, men gone lay with women.
That's nature. But a woman ain't
never gone stop a real man from
what he's supposed to do. That's
God. Husband? Daddy? That gives a
man purpose. Man gotta have
purpose. But purpose don't stop me
neither, Bobby. Ain't nothin' gone
stop us. Nothin'. And that's God
INT. KITCHENETTE. 1955. DAY. JAMES 22 YRS
James Brown stares back at his infant son with the same wary
You gone smile for me, Teddy Brown?
He bounces him on his knee once.
Come on, boy.
Twice. The kid smiles. James suddenly becomes moved. He
leans over and kisses his son.
We out of greens. You want me to go
pick some up?
Velma, a cute nineteen year old girl is fixing dinner.
A car horn outside. He looks out the window.
Baby. I gotta go.
But I got your supper.
He hands her the baby, kisses her passionately. She melts.
Wake me up.
James pretends to look shocked, covers Teddy's ears.
EXT. JAMES AND VELMA'S KITCHENETTE
James bounds off the porch towards the station wagon.
Velma steps onto the porch with the baby. She suddenly looks
James turns to his family and pats his hand over his heart.
I got you right in here, Teddy
Velma raises Teddy's hand and waves it at James.
James begins to serenade "Lost Someone" to his family...
EXT. CRAPPY STATION WAGON. RURAL ROAD - SUNSET. 1955
James continues to sing. Only now he's humming as if working
out a new way into "Lost Someone".
We widen to see The Flames, Baby Roy, Nafloyd, Bobby and
James pushing an old crappy Chevy station wagon down the
road. Nafloyd has the easy job of keeping the steering wheel
Nafloyd is clearly annoyed by James' humming.
Nafloyd, you know in "Let's Make
It" when it goes (he hums). If you
go up there and hold it, like.
(hums). It's gone be sweet. Make it
like you got a harmonica stuck in
Nafloyd looks back at Bobby Byrd.
You know what? Why don't you sing
What? I can't sing it. It's your
But I ain't singing it right James.
I just ain't.
NAFLOYD SCOTT (CONT'D)
I ain't got a harmonica in my
throat. But you do. We all know
James continues with his humming. Nafloyd stops pushing and
walks alongside with a finger on the wheel.
NAFLOYD SCOTT (CONT'D)
You know how it be done. You got it
all worked out. Don't you?
James ain't saying that `floyd.
He's just hearing something.
Get back to pushing the car.
Let's all take a break for a
Everyone stops pushing. Bobby turns to Nafloyd. Fuming.
What I say in Peterstown? Huh?
I know what you said.
What I say?
You said `Fill her up Floyd.
That's right. That's what he said.
I know you he said fill her up,
Baby Roy! Problem is we don't got
the dough to fill it.
We don't got the dough because
Bobby here let James spend all our
money on some fake record which is
right now sittin' in trash cans
outside King, outside RCA, outside
You took all our money, James.
Where my money at?
They are about to throw down.
Cool it Floyd!
Where my money, James?!
I'm taking you to the money,
(James tap his head)
This lands hard on Bobby's ears. He smiles
So, push the Wagon, Nafloyd.
Nafloyd resumes pushing the wagon.
79 INT. PEACHES DINER. 1955. EARLY MORNING. 79
James stands in the rear of an African American diner talking
on a pay phone. He's a sweaty mess having walked through the
His face drops. It registers sudden concern.
Are you sure, Baby?
80 INT. PEACHES DINER. MOMENTS LATER 80
James joins Bobby at a booth of the diner. Bobby is also a
The Tuxedo Room already cancelled
tonight's show. Said if we couldn't
show up last night then why we
gonna show up tonight.
Now we got twenty four hours to get
to Prestonville. Hundred and forty
miles West. We got no gas. No
bread. No show. I miss anything?
Velma's pregnant again.
Bobby looks at him. Deadpan.
So now, we gotta make us a business
He reaches in his pocket. Puts a few coins on the table.
Thirty cents. The question is, do I
call the Two Spot, find out we got
any messages. Or do I get me a
coffee. Or do I skip the coffee,
and get me a donut.
James considers this. Reaches in his pocket. Puts some coins
on the table.
Knock yourself out.
A black waitress comes over. Bobby acts as if he's a high
roller. Living the life. Perusing the menu.
Hey honey. Can I get me a coffee...
Looks at James. Now for the ultimate luxury.
..and...let's see...a donut?
You boys from outta town?
We're Musicians. We the Famous
(noting their disheveled look)
More like a flicker.
James reaches over and grabs the waitress' hand.
All we need is a spark, baby. So we
can turn the lamp down low till
this sun rise up on us in the
The waitress pulls her hand back.
Y'all's broke ass is splittin' that
donut, ain't you?
Bobby starts to laugh.
I'll bring it with a knife.
James winks before the waitress walks away.
I gone call the Two Spot.
James expression instantly changes.
Over at the door, A white guy. Obviously a cop. He waves our
Excuse me ma'am, I just came from a
place called the Tuxedo Room. I'm
looking for the boys who were
supposed to be playing there
I ain't supposed to leave Bibb
County without telling my parole
Shit James! What we do?
Bobby looks around and James has disappeared under the table.
Bobby drops like a stone under the table as well.
Bobby peers around the booth for a peek.
He's coming this way. Oh shit.
I can't go back to prison Bobby.
The waitress sits the man down at a nearby table.
I've been driving across over two
states looking for these boys. They
have to be here in Macon. Tell ya
what, I'll make it worth your while
if you can tell me where they are.
The man hands the waitress ten bucks and a business card.
The woman shrugs as she reads the card.
King Records? What did they do?
Bobby and James look at each other.
Bobby crawls out from under the table suddenly all business.
Evening, Sir. I'm Bobby Byrd this
is my associate James Brown.
James crawls out and stands before RALPH BASS.
I understand you're looking for the
LATER AT THE DINER - Bobby and James sit with Ralph Bass. The
breakfast crowd has cleared out.
I'm Ralph Bass from Federal records
in Cincinnati. An imprint of King
Records. I heard your acetate. I
want you to come to Cincinnati. I
want you to make a record for King.
Bobby looks back at him. Nods.
King records. As in King Records.
The King records.
The waitress arrives with a donut and a plate of steak and
eggs. She places the steak and eggs in front of James and
You sure put a lot into that cut.
The main vocal. You got some soul
Uh.. That's not me. That's uh.
That you singing?
James looks BACK TO US.
Yeah. That's me.
EXT. FEDERAL/KING RECORDS, CINCINNATI. DAY. 1956
James stands alone looking up at the towering building.
INT. RECORDING STUDIO. DAY. JAMES 23
Please, Please, Please....!
They put everything they've got into "Please, Please,
James leans into a chrome studio mic and sings: Please...
please...please... He leans out and the Flames lean in to the
same mic. "Please please don't go"..
IN THE BOOTH --
Gene Redd mans the desk. Ralph stands nervously while SYD
NATHAN, the impressively fat 60-year-old owner of King sits
in jamjar spectacles and Bakelite Headphones, listening.
Wait...wait a second here-
Raggedly they all come to a halt. Nafloyd seems annoyed.
What we stop for? That was cookin'.
Everyone looks pissed at James who seems agitated. Byrd's
nervous they're wasting time.
It's OK sir we OK. We can just
start right at the top.
It ain't right. It's too slow. We
gotta pick up the pace fellas.
James begins to pace. Bobby grows concerned.
What are you doing, James? These
men been doing this for a long
time. We need to listen to them.
I need to come in early..push it.
Drive it. Early. Before the beat.
Then speed it up, man.
Ralph Bass speaks to James from the booth.
James, this is a ballad. The pace
we've set is perfect.
I know it's a ballad, Mr. Bass.
But a ballad is supposed to get her
in the mood, not put her to sleep.
The Flames all look at Bobby who looks at the impatient faces
waiting on the other side of the glass.
Let's just get it done OK?
But it ain't right.
THEY LAUNCH INTO PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE. JAMES NAILS HIS LEAD
but the pace remains the same.
IN THE RECORDING BOOTH
Syd Nathan, takes of his headphones, and turns to Ralph,
pissed as hell.
(Takes off cans. Yells)
What the hell is this Ralph?!
Where's the rest of the song?
He just keeps hollering that one
word over and over. "Please".
"Please" what, Ralph?! Please jerk
my dick? What the hell does he
want? If he doesn't tell me, you're
IN THE STUDIO
Bobby and Nafloyd can see something is wrong. James oblivious
still singing, lost in the moment.
IN THE BOOTH
Listen, Mr. Nathan. This song-
I don't hear a song Ralph. A song
has verses. A snappy chorus. It's
not just some unfortunate nigger
pleading. Who needs that? Give me
the fucking song Ralph. The song.
It's not about the song.
Nathan stops. This is sacrilege.
It's not the song.
Nathan turns to and looks again. His eyes narrow UPON James
Brown, his heart and soul pouring out onto the tape.
82A INT. BIG BILLS RENDEZVOUS. 1954. NIGHT. 82A
THE FAMOUS FLAMES are back on stage at Big Bills only now
THEY OWN THE ROOM. A packed standing room only house is
going wild for James and the flames.
Side doors to the club have been opened. People pour outside
James sings PLEASE! at a much faster pace than at King. Aunt
Honey and her girls bump and grind to the music.
Please! Please! Please.
James lowers to the floor and belts his heart out as the song
James walks off stage and just outside Big Bills. A bath
towel is put over James' back and head to absorb his sweat.
James is breathing hard, completely exhausted. The crowd is
not wanting the show to end. The band is vamps amid cheers.
James Brown, James Brown, James
James slowly rises his head from under his towel and looks
right at us. He begins to smile.
He then looks over to Bobby and nods. The band resumes
Please, Please, Please.
Suddenly James throws the towel off of himself and runs to
the stage. The cape act is born.
Please! Please! Please!
James jumps onto the floor singing as if for his life. He
soon disappears into a sea of women pulling at his clothes.
INT. KING RECORD. MEETING ROOM. DAY JAMES 23
James Brown sits on a couch next to Ralph Bass.
James. I want you to meet somebody.
Ralph Bass gets up and opens the door. On the chairs outside
the meeting room a friendly looking man looks up from a
James, this is Ben Bart. Ben is
President of Universal Attractions.
New York's biggest booking agency.
That was a great show last week
over in Jersey.
Well thank you Sir, we worked real
Not we James. Not the Famous
Flames. You. James Brown.
James looks from one to the other.
What Bart is saying James is-
I know what Mr. Bart is saying. I
heard him. Loud and clear.
He looks at them both.
I see where we goin'. Saw it this
morning when your secretary called
ask me to come here an hour early.
Alone. I knew it six months ago.
Hell, I knew it the day I was born.
James looks back. He doesn't blink. He looks to us.
There's some things I'm gonna want.
83A INT. KING RECORDS. CONFERENCE ROOM. LATER THAT MORNING. 83A
A receptionist shows the rest of the band in. The Flames join
Ralph, Syd Nathan, Ben Bart, and James.
Come in Boys. Come in.
There's no chairs. They stand.
BEN BART (CONT'D)
Boys, I have something to show you.
He hands them each a record sleeve. They look down.
I don't understand. Is this some
sort of mistake?
His Famous Flames?
The sleeve has clearly printed on it "James Brown and his
Sir, this ain't right.
We agree. See I believe it should
say simply James Brown. The fact is
Gentlemen, James Brown doesn't need
the Famous Flames. King records and
Universal don't need the Famous
Flames. But James has requested
that the name remain in some form.
Now if you want to stay, stay, but
from now on you work for James
Brown, on James Brown's records.
Should you find this disagreeable
in part or whole, you can go home.
James stares straight ahead. Nafloyd throws the record at the
wall. Bobby stands there, stunned.
Slowly, James looks at Bobby and then crosses to him.
Bobby. It's just a name. Ain't
nothing different between us. This
for all us not just me. It's gone
Bobby stares back. Nafloyd steps up to James.
James Brown. I never liked you.
Come on. Let's get outta here..
He turns and walks away with the band. Bobby rises and
follows out the door.
On James. Bart sits down opposite him.
So. Do you know what you want
EXT. WOODS. DILAPIDATED CABIN. 1941.
FLASHBACK - JAMES, aged eight, outside the shack in Barnwell,
beating his stick against the shack.
I know exactly what I want.
INT. KING RECORDS. CINCINNATI. DAY. 1962 JAMES 29 YRS
Forget it. King doesn't make live
albums. They're too expensive.
I think a live album-
James, your audience is Negro.
Negroes don't buy albums. They
don't have the resources.
Especially not for a bunch a songs
they already got.
James turns to Ben Bart.
James, Recording live is five, six
times as expensive as the studio.
And that's for some violin concerto
at the Met. No one jumps up and
shouts "Blow it fucker!" in the
middle of The Magic Flute.
But, Pop, you know my show.
James turns to Syd.
Mr. Nathan, you ain't ever even
seen the show. My show.
Don't need to.
Syd rises and begins to dance. He attempts the "Mashed
What are you doing?
The "Mashed Potato".
That ain't the "Mashed Potato".
I can't do the "Mashed Potato".
That's your job. That's the show.
But what I can do is the business.
Syd goes back to his desk and sits.
So I stick to what I know. You
stick to what you know. And that's
INT. ELITE RESTAURANT. 1962. DAY.
Ben Bart and James, in a booth. James silent, tense.
Book the Apollo. I'm gonna spend my
own money on this. Syd Nathan's
I'm not going to let you do that,
Book it out next week for the whole
week, go in, we drill it, we drill
it, we drill it, then we drop it.
Forget it, Jimmy. It's too big of a
risk. Let's order something to eat.
Ben signals for a waitress to come over. James grows
I don't understand risk?
I don't understand cos I'm just the
"show"? Is that all I am to you,
Pop? The show? The money?
Of course not, Jimmy.
Sure it is. That's all me and my
black brothers are to the "White
Devil". We the show and you the
money. And that's how the White
Devil keeps it all.
I'm not the "White Devil". I'm
trying to protect you. I'm doing
James becomes intense. A waitress walks over.
Pop, look me in the eye.
Ben stays on his menu.
Ben looks up. The waitress scurries away.
Yeah, I'm the show. But, if I'm
spendin' my own money on the show,
then I'm gone be the business too.
And after we kill The Apollo, I'll
kick over a few bucks to the white
devil. Whatever I think he
deserves. And If I'm payin' you,
Pop, you gone show me how to do it.
Ben takes this in.
I'll call Nola Sound. They got
these new three track stereo
recorders from Ampex.
And I want the best engineer in
town. I don't care what it takes. I
don't care what it cost. I want
everyone in uniform, the ushers,
front of house, the peanut
We'll need the band in New York
And I want `em in Sapphire blue
suits. Pop. Sapphire.
Sapphire Blue. Underwear too. How
does that sound?
Pop smiles as does James.
INT./EXT. CAR/ APOLLO THEATER. 1962. NIGHT.
Ben Bart drives a sedan. James rides in the front seat.
It's cold. It's cold. It's too cold
man. It's too cold. Cold. Cold.
They round the corner.
C'mon. C'mon. C'mon. C'mon. C'mon.
SUDDENLY and for the first time, we hear the classic James
A THUMPING RHYTHM BEGINS. James, stock still, no longer
looking out of the window. Head completely still.
Out of the window: a line of people. On and on. We round the
corner. More people. Another corner. More.
The doors of the theatre open as we pass. People rush forward
as THE CAR PULLS UP. James gets out outside by the stage
entrance. Ben follows.
Evening, Mr. Brown. Cold out
Gertrude. See if you can get some
coffee for the folks in line.
James walks into the stage door entrance of the Apollo. Ben
follows with a big smile. It's happening.
INT. APOLLO THEATER. STAGE. NIGHT. 1962
ONE BY ONE TWELVE PAIRS OF PATENT LEATHER SHOES HIT THE
THE NEW JAMES BROWN REVUE file in with instrument cases like
some ultra hip sect.
In the dimly lit back stage we see the motions of opening
their cases and begin setting up their stations, A beautiful
black girl pulls up her mini to reveal even more leg.
James enters looking amazing in a cobalt sharkskin. He
approaches the all new band.
A member of the band, whose back is to us, peers out of the
scarlet curtains towards the packed house.
You ready Mr. Byrd?
Bobby Byrd turns from the curtains. THE ONLY SURVIVING MEMBER OF
THE STARLIGHTERS. His profile lighted by a powerful spot.
Ready Mr. Brown.
Gertrude rushes to James with his jacket. He smooths his hair.
Are you ready for star time? Thank
you and thank you very kindly-
INT. APOLLO. STAGE. NIGHT.
Syd Nathan and Ben Bart stand in the wings. Syd shouts in Ben's
We got the level on his main mic
way up to drown out the crowd. You
gotta get him to hold back a little
in the first number!
CLOSE UP: Big two inch tape magnacorders turn on brushed
aluminium spindles. Recording live.
Ben Bart looks over at James at the curtain edge. A man
I think its too late for that. You
ain't got a breeze, Syd. You got a
James looks at Bobby. Bobby nods. James nods back. The band
The curtain opens. BANG! James Brown & the New Revue are in
perfect timing looking impeccable in their new sapphire blue
suits. The crowd goes wild with excitement.
Mr. Dynamite steps on stage-- and floats and dances across bare
planks like they were polished ice. He reaches the mike.
You know I feel alright.
You know I feel alright children.
I feel aaaaaaaallllriiiiiiight.
Les Buie whacks the guitar strings and the world ceases to
spin. A rising 6/8 blues riff pulses up like adrenaline.
As he sings the song, a shock wave blasts out from the stage
of the theatre on 125th street and into the Universe.
Bobby might as well be sitting on the moon. He never misses
James Brown and the New Revue are tearing up their second
SYD NATHAN now sits in the audience surrounded by a SEA OF
BLACK FACES. We gather that Syd has never really experienced
"The Show". He smiles and nods to the beat.
Just then a female seated behind him shouts as the horns kick
FEMALE IN AUDIENCE
Blow it fuckers!!!
James stares into the darkness. He's already begun to sweat.
The drums stop a six punch combination from the horns dead.
He reaches for the mic without looking. Leans in and locks
eyes with Syd.
James drops to his knees. The crowd goes wild.
A few rows behind Syd, we find Susie Brown sitting in the
audience. James' mother has come to the show.
INT. APOLLO DRESSING ROOM. NIGHT.
After. The cheers still ringing out. People packed into his
dressing room. Champagne corks pop. Congratulations from all.
Thank you. That's very kind of you.
Bobby, at the door. Can't get to him. Turns to Gertrude.
Gertrude. Get everybody out.
ACROSS THE ROOM
We gone celebrate tonight. And then
tomorrow we gone Wilmington and do
it to it all over again.
Mr. Brown. Excuse me. Mr. Brown.
James stops. Turns to face Bobby's grave expression. Bobby
whispers in James' ear.
There's a woman here, Mr. Brown.
She says she's your mother.
James stops dead. COMPLETELY STILL. We push in. He doesn't
FLASHBACK - EXT. STREET. NIGHT. 1942. JAMES 9 YRS
Little Junior walks Twigg street at night. Passing dives and
Suddenly he stops, across the street, he sees a woman coming
out of a bar arm in arm with a BLACK SOLDIER.
He follows her up the street. She's weaving and laughing with
the drunk soldier.
SUSIE and the soldier walk into a side yard where a party is
in full swing.
James approaches her from behind.
Momma it's me. It's me.
She turns. Focuses blearily.
You know this little nigger?
For a moment it looks as if there is a flicker of
recognition. Then swivels her head to look at the soldier.
She shakes her head.
The soldier picks up a rock a throws it.
Get the fuck out of here.
92 INT. AUNT HONEY'S BEDROOM. NIGHT. 1942 92
Aunt Honey and James lie in bed together. James has been
Don't cry, Little Junior. Don't
cry. Now, child, I want you to
listen to me. You gone be okay. You
hear me? Little Junior, you were
born dead. Did you know that?
James shakes his head.
AUNT HONEY (CONT'D)
When your great Aunt pulled you
into this world you were dead. You
had gone cold. She slapped your ass
hard too but you never drew a
breath. Your momma and daddy had to
say goodbye to you. But then your
Great Aunt breathed in you one last
time. And then you turned warm and
then you screamed. So loud we heard
it all the way here in Augusta.
You're special, boy. Cause you got
the spirit in you. And that spirit
told me you gone be a rich man,
Little Junior. And Everybody gone
know your name. Ain't nothin' can
touch you. You hear me? Nothin'.
INT. TOUR BUS. DAY. 1964
The band on the bus. Bobby Bennet frowns and turns to Bobby
Byrd. A new girl, YVONNE FAIR, gets on.
DOWN THE BUS -- The others watch.
James gone wear that seat out.
Which seat. Her's or the bus?
Having overheard, Yvonne spends around.
I'm Yvonne! I'm a singer. Let me
worry about my seat.
Bennet and Maceo snicker.
EXT. STREET/FISH HOUSE. DAY. 1965
James and Ben Bart walk up a street. They turn a corner to
see a gleaming new Cadillac parked next to the Fish House.
We see a DRIVER inside. The driver exits.
Compliments of Universal
This for me? Looky this! We got us
(to the chauffeur)
Gimme the keys. What they payin'
James takes the keys and then pulls out a roll of bills and
counts out six hundreds. He hands them to chauffeur.
This here's a month's pay, help you
get yourself another job. I gone
The chauffeur smiles, hands Bart his hat and walks off down
Don't mention it.
(turns to Ben Bart)
That's six a month goin' somewhere
EXT. FISH HOUSE - DAY
James and Pop sit at a small dining table outside the Fish
Pop, see there's something I been
meaning to ask you.
What's that Jimmy.
I got a seventh grade education
Pop, so you'll have to excuse me. I
was looking over those figures you
sent me, and something occur to me:
we don't pay the promoter, the
promoter pay us.
Just standard Jimmy. Guarantee
against fluctuating ticket sales.
Lets plan a-
-sure we planning, see I ask
myself, what if we don't got
fluctuating sales. What if you
knocking the tar out of every show.
Ben Bart watches James with a new outlook on his partner and
Well let me explain the way it
works. When you book a show. Take
Chicago. Now our promoter in
Lenny J Frank. Lenny's the number
one promoter in Chicago has been
for twenty years.
I don't doubt it.
Now when Lenny pays us a flat rate,
we can account. You know, number
one, you're getting top rate and
What if we took the gate?
(Bart stops JAMES looks over)
What if we took it ourself.
And still got the show promoted,
Better than Lenny Franks?
Lenny Franks a James Brown fan? How
old he, sixty? Why's he gone try
harder for James Brown than for Sam
Cooke? Or Ray Charles. Or Tom
Jones. See Pop. We go to the radio
Jimmy, I understand your
frustration but you gotta realize
you're entering a game where the
rules are set out. If you were a
ball player you can't walk in and
change how many innings they're
gonna play just because...
As Bart drones on, James loses interest and starts addressing
You see my point right? OK. Listen
up. We go to the radio station. We
go to the young cats. The hungry
cats. The late night cat.
INT. RADIO STATION.
James talks to us as he stands next to a DEEJAY, ALAN LEEDS,
The deejay doesn't hear James talking to us.
The twenty year old white deejay in
Richmond Virginia who's getting
paid nothing and is only doin' it
because he loves music. We go to
him we ask him if he want to be the
sole James Brown promoter for the
Richmond show. For a percentage. He
The deejay suddenly looks up to James.
YOUNG RICHMOND DEEJAY
Are you fucking kidding me? Do you
know how much they pay me?
JAMES WALKS PAST THROUGH THE STATION TALKING TO US.
Between nothing and fifty bucks a
week. But he love my music.
He digs James Brown. And he got a
microphone and a turn-table and
four hours airtime to kill.
YOUNG RICHMOND DEEJAY
LATER - THE RADIO STATION.
He spins it. MUSIC starts: "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag."
JAMES BEGINS TO GROOVE.
And at the end he gone say..
ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE. VOICE-OVER OF DEEJAYS ANNOUNCING THE
UPCOMING SHOWS OVER.. "MAKE SURE YOU CATCH JAMES AT THE ARENA
IN RICHMOND THIS TUESDAY!!! " ETC.
96 INT. FISH HOUSE. DAY. 96
BACK AT THE FISH HUT, JAMES IS TALKING TO US AS HE ORDERS A
PLATE OF FISH.
Now because he's twenty he's got
strong legs. And he knows everyone.
EXT. THE STREETS. 1965.
THE VARIOUS DEEJAYs -- riding around town on bikes, on
skates, diving out of cars, pasting up posters everywhere.
He know the guy in the barber shop
knows the guy at the pool hall, the
guy at the garage.
98 INSIDE JAMES PAYS FOR A LARGE PLATE OF FISH. 98
That way we get our record played
outside Payola, we get our show
promoted better, harder, cheaper,
and we keep the gate.
99 EXT. FISH HOUSE - CONTINUOUS 99
James exits the fish house and sits down at a rickety card
table with Bart.
And the best part is, you can put
it all through the books. Item.
(He turns to Bart)
What'd you think Pop?
Its beautiful Jimmy. I can't do it.
Bart picks up a piece of fish and eats it.
Universal Attractions promotes many
acts. I can't piss off the 60 or 70
promoters in this country to skim a
little extra on the James Brown
It's not a little. If the show
sells, and it's sellin', we talking
thousands of dollars a night.
Difference per year between 2 and 3
And I'm out of a job. Think you're
forgetting I don't just work for
And there's my next point Pop. Why
I can do something for you, and you
can do something for me, and it
ain't buy me no Cadillac. Did you
buy Wilson Pickett a Cadillac? Did
you buy Jackie Wilson a Cadillac?
You know which way this thing is
going Pop. I got people around me
who don't see it.
Bart looks at him for some time as a black 1965 limousine
pulls up to the fish house.
James looks straight back to us. Smiles. Ben Bart rises and
grabs a piece of fish.
I thank you for the fish. And I'm
gonna need some benefits, boss.
Bart crosses to the limo and leaves.
BLACKOUT. SCREAMS. HORNS VAMPING.
INT. THEATER. NIGHT. 1965 JAMES 32
The whole band on stage looking sharp. Knocking the shit out
of MAN'S WORLD. James falls to his knees
James turns to backup singer, YVONNE and winks. She winks
James scans the front row and sees a very beautiful black
woman, DEDE, dancing in the audience.
James and Dede lock eyes. The attraction immediate.
Man's World continues over the next three scenes.
INT. SECURE ROOM
Ben Bart counts bundles of cash. He shuts a case full of
money. Hands it to 300lb MINDER. An ASSISTANT tries to
handcuff it to his wrist. It won't close.
Po-lice have the same problem.
Bart looks at the three hundred pound minder. Tacitly decides
it's probably safe.
EXT. STREET IN CINCINNATI. 1965. DAY.
Two shiny cars pull up to the bank. The 300lb MINDER, and a
couple of his fellas, head into the bank each carrying
several suitcases full of money.
INT. BANK. DAY.
They form a queue as the good folk of Cincinnati stare agog.
The carriers hand over BUNDLES AND BUNDLES OF CASH.
BEHIND THE COUNTER The manager spots how many suitcases they
INT. THEATER. NIGHT. LATER THAT SAME NIGHT.
James is concluding his show with Please, Please, Please. He
is at the tail end of his cape routine. The cape is
brilliant blue with rhinestones.
He glances at Dede one last time from under the cape.
INT. BACKSTAGE. POST SHOW. NIGHT. 1965
James walks down the corridor backstage. Stops. Sniffs. Opens
an equipment room door. NEW BAND MEMBER is inside smoking
Who you play Sax with son?
NEW BAND MEMBER
James Brown Orchestra, Mr. Brown.
What's the rule?
NEW BAND MEMBER
No hopheads. No reefer heads. No
Not on the bus. Not backstage. You
a talented horn player, son. You
gotta keep your game tight. Now you
wanna smoke a little groove on your
own time, that's yo' business.
But we out here to work hard and we
gone do just that you dig? Fifty.
Puts out his hand. NEW BAND MEMBER counts off bills and walks
down the corridor.
James turns around to find a beautiful black woman staring
back at him. She holds a notebook and pen.
Hello pretty thing. You want an
James approaches and tries to grab the notebook. She pulls
it back from his grasp with a smile
You want to come with me? So I can
sign it somewhere private?
James flashes that million dollar smile. They walk away
105 INT. JAMES BROWN'S HOME. BEDROOM. WALTON WAY. AUGUSTA. 105
James walks into the bedroom of his home. Dede is sitting at
the end of their bed looking beautiful in a sexy negligee.
I called you yesterday, you ain't
I was home all day.
You were home all day. So why you
didn't pick up the phone?
I don't know. What time you call?
I call you at one and quarter past
one, then I call you at two. And I
call again at three.
You must've wanted to talk to me
Where were you?
Yesterday. I don't know..in the
For two hours?
You want me to take shorter baths?
You don't have a phone in the
bathroom, James. What you gonna do?
He looks at her levelly as he walks past and grabs a phone
from the bedside table.
He yanks it out of the wall. Dede turns, James races towards
her but passes and heads into the bathroom.
106 INT. BATHROOM - CONTINUOUS 106
James walks in with the phone. James throws the phone at a
bathroom mirror. It shatters.
BACK IN THE BEDROOM
Dede is still as stone. James looks to Dede and then begins
I ain't gone fine you, baby. You
fine enough already.
Then get over here, Mr. Dynamite.
James approaches Dede and begins taking off his clothes.
Got you a phone in the bathroom
James and Dede begin making love.
MUSIC. MONEY WON'T CHANGE YOU. Over.
EXT. CADILLAC. 1965. DAY.
James, Dede and Bobby are standing outside James' Cadillac.
Dede has her hands over Bobby's eyes. Dede has a huge diamond
ring on her finger.
Keep your eyes closed Bobby. Keep
They're closed, Dede.
You peekin' brother? OK. OK.
(James stops the car.)
You ready. You ready? OK. Open `em.
(Bobby does. )
Check it Bobby. Is that something?
Bobby opens his eyes and sees a Lear Jet stands on a runway.
"James Brown" on the side.
That something Bobby? Is that
Yeah brother. That's something.
Velma pulls up in another car. It's full of James kids. Teddy
plus four more. He picks them all up and hugs them. As he
does, Bobby sheepishly greets Velma.
James and Dede come over. Bobby takes a step back.
Teddy got impetigo.
It's a skin infection.
All that mess round his mouth.
That's impetigo. It's highly
Velma turns to Dede.
I'm just sayin' Mrs. Brown, I
wouldn't go too near Teddy. Not
unless you wanna catch impetigo.
Thank you, Velma. I'll consider
Warned? Oh, that's a whole other
conversation. Welcome to the
Dede and Velma smile at each other.
James looks at the two women then to Teddy. He pulls Teddy
in close. James turns to his other kids.
Listen up. Which one of you cats
want to fly to Reno on daddy's
The kids all say "me!... me!" The kids, Bobby and Dede walk
up the steps onto the plane as Velma gets in her car.
You need anything?
I'll let you know. I'm putting a
big list together right now.
Velma smiles and cranks her car.
108 EXT. RENO PRIVATE AIRPORT. ESTABLISHING. DAY. 1965 108
INT. PRIVATE AIRPORT TERMINAL. LATER THAT DAY. JAMES
James is giving a press conference to a group of journalists.
Bobby, Teddy and Dede stand next to James.
Welcome to Reno, Mr. Brown. What
exactly do you call your style of
I call it James Brown music. What
I mean is, it's so far ahead of
it's time that they ain't got a
name for it yet. Take another
record, any record from your stack
at home. I don't care if it's from
Motown or Stax or whatever...and
put it on your box. None of them
are gonna sound like mine. Not
even my own old records. Just like
the title says, it's a "new bag".
See the funk is in the bass. The
bass never changes. It's a groove,
lady. Soon as you hear that
groove, I know I got you.
And what exactly is the groove?
The groove is something you feel.
The groove is solid. Bam Bap. It
don't move. It's like a heartbeat.
It's inside you, driving
everything. Hard. Flat. A groove.
But how exactly do you define it?
I just did.
See Miss. See there's some things,
they're just too big to fit in a
magazine. But we all feel it. Even
little Teddy here know it when he
James groans "Um booga chooca. Um". Teddy is lit up;
thrilled. He sings.
"Um Booga Chooca"
See. Right there. We all feel it
together. And that's the groove.
(Checks her questions)
So what's your favorite food?
James catches Dede's eye. She and James share a knowing look
with Bobby. Bobby takes the mic as James walks away to a
side room where Ben Bart is waiting.
110 INT. AIRPORT MEETING ROOM - MOMENTS LATER 110
BART, James study at a map. BOBBY sits across the aisle.
Then we got a day between Raleigh,
Carolina and Columbia two days
Sure. Regroup. Rest the horses.
We ain't payin' the horses to rest
`em. Besides, we got a day off in
two weeks in New Orleans. The boys
can get their wives, girlfriends
along, kick back. What's between
Raleigh and Columbia? Spartanburg?
BACK THE PRESS CONFERENCE:
Well see, James started out in
Augusta. Then his family moved to
Toccoa. That's where we met.
And tell me about James' first
band, the Famous Flames.
Well there was five of us to start
with. Nafloyd Scott, Baby Roy
Scott, Sylvester Keels..
And they left...
Yeah. They left.
James walks into the interview area.
Bobby? What's the name of the
theater in Spartanburg...
Uh.. The Viceroy. The..
Yeah. That's it. The Regal.
On Howard Street and main. Hold
about 750 people. Guy named Bennett
used to own it. Yeah, Spartanburg.
Yeah, we'll play there and I can
bring in my masseuse from Anderson.
James disappears again.
JAMES (O.C.) (CONT'D)
Call `em up, Pop.
The journalists laugh.
Wow. He's got an amazing memory.
Bobby nods to himself.
Yeah. James remembers everything.
111 EXT. JAMES BROWN'S HOME. WALTON WAY. 1967. CHRISTMAS. 111
On the lawn of James' and Dede's new home a Christmas
spectacular is staged. The Brown's Colonial is smack dab in
the middle of Augusta's most elite, white neighborhood.
Fake snow is being sprayed on the lawn by Teddy. Kids of all
races play in the white stuff.
We widen to see a huge line of people waiting to meet James
who is dressed as Santa Clause.
Dede is dressed as a sexy Mrs. Clause. Dede wears sexy fish
net hose which rise up her legs, disappearing into a short
red skirt. Dede holds an infant girl.
One by one, kids and their parents approach James. He hands
each Kid a five dollar bill.
A little white boy approaches.
Hey little man, you been good this
Yes, Mister Brown.
James hands him a five spot. Dede hands the little boy a
Another little white boy and his father approach. James as
James speaks to the little boy.
Merry Christmas, Little Man.
James then notices the boy's father checking out Dede.
The little boy moves on to Dede. She leans over and picks up
an apple from a tray.
The boy's father takes full notice of Dede's ass. James takes
full notice of the entire thing.
112 INT. JAMES BROWN'S HOME. WALTON WAY. AUGUSTA. LATER THAT 112
James and Dede enter the Brown home, passing a huge life size
portrait of James hanging in the foyer.
Great crowd today, Baby.
James passes Dede without a word and heads to the back of the
Dede follows James thought the living room and into the
James disappears around a corner.
You want some dinner?
Dede follows James around the corner and disappears.
You stand up in James Brown's yard
dressed like that? So every man can
Then suddenly, A SMACK is heard. Dede's Body falls back into
frame and collapses on the kitchen floor.
A towel flies into frame and lands next to Dede.
JAMES (O.C.) (CONT'D)
Cover yourself up.
113 INT. JAMES BROWN'S HOME. WALTON WAY. AUGUSTA. CONTINUOUS 113
We are now with James in the room off the kitchen. Behind
James we see Dede starting to get up off the floor.
The camera is on James' face. We get the sense that James
wants to look at us and talk directly to us but he won't.
Out of Shame, James leaves the room and goes to Dede's aid.
EXT. HOTEL POOL. NEW ORLEANS. 1967. DAY
The long awaited day off. The James revue kicks back by the
pool in the sunshine, wives, girls, and kids.
An idyllic scene. Kids playing with fathers. Kids towelled
down by mothers.
115 EXT. HOTEL POOL. CHECK IN STAND. CONTINUOUS 115
A WHITE FEMALE TOURIST in swimming kit has been complaining
to a HOTEL MANAGER. Her HUSBAND, tries to make peace.
(regarding the manager)
Honey, his hands are tied. The pool
area has been reserved for a
We're good people and we've paid
good money. We didn't come all the
way to New Orleans to swim in a
pool full of-
Just then a band member's kid does a cannonball in the pool.
BACK AT THE POOL
Bobby, poolside, messes about with the new singer, Vicki
You a bad man Bobby Byrd.
Suddenly he pulls her to him. They NEARLY share a kiss. But
Bobby turns his head to a hotel balcony. Vicki grabs Bobby's
face and turns it back toward her.
VICKI ANDERSON (CONT'D)
Quit lookin' for James Brown and
keep your eyes on me, Bobby Byrd.
She sexily rises and goes and sits on a lounger.
Bobby watches her all the way. She catches his eye. Looks at
him, raises an eyebrow like "what you looking at?" He feigns
innocence, turns, and smiles.
116 EXT. HOTEL BALCONY - SAME TIME 116
James discreetly watches from behind a blind on his balcony
117 EXT. HOTEL POOL. CONTINUOUS. 117
Pee Wee, in jams, walks with a new band member, FRED WESLEY,
who is still wearing a suit.
Fella's this is Fred. I thought
we'd show him how things work?
Pee Wee pulls out a cheap wig from his pocket and puts it on.
Everyone around the pool begins to laugh as Pee Wee begins
demonstrating how things work to Wesley. Pee Wee is full on
imitating James Brown
PEE WEE ELLIS
So when I do this..
(Turns head, stamps foot)
Means you give it some punch. See.
When I dip like this.
(Dips hip and slides)
Means less sharp. Bring it down.
PEE WEE ELLIS
When I do this.
(Juts chin back and forth)
Mean I give it some heat.
PEE WEE ELLIS
Right. Now when I do this.
(Stamps foot and moves elbow.)
And you stab..
On the one.
PEE WEE ELLIS
See? And when I pop his head like
this, it mean.
Take it to the bridge.
What about when he do this..?
Maceo crunches his shoulder blades together.
PEE WEE ELLIS
I ain't ready to tell you that one
yet. I'm in control Mr. Parker.
Got it. Don't ask about that again.
Pee Wee flashes his hand at Maceo.
That'll be ten thousand dollars.
The band loses their shit at this one. Laughs all around.
An hotel employee walks out with a note and hands it to Pee
Wee. Pee Wee reads. Pee Wee removes the wig.
PEE WEE (CONT'D)
He's called a rehearsal.
Now. We gotta go get dressed.
You're kidding. Tell me you
EXT. HOTEL ROOM BALCONY / POOL.
Hiding behind a partition, James raises a cigarette to his
119 JAMES 34 YRS 119
INT. NEW ORLEANS HOTEL REHEARSAL ROOM. 1967
The band, all in their suits, with their instruments. All
glaring. One more pissed off than the next. Vicki stands in
James is in the middle of an extended anecdote.
See My great grandmother on my
momma's side, she Asian. She got
Asian blood. See Asians are a
You get with an Asian chick? That a
whole other story. No spank but
they got it baby they got it.
Anyway what was I talkin `bout?
Your Chinese knees Mr. Brown.
That's right. That it. I got these
That's how come I can dance the way
I do. Anyway. One. Two. Three.
Four. Hit it.
The band starts up. During the introduction to COLD SWEAT,
MACEO comes in late on the Sax. Everything stops.
What you doing man? You coming in
maybe a little too late. What's the
matter son. You lost your feeling?
No Sir. I ain't lost no feeling.
SILENCE. James tunes into the vibe for the first time.
Something wrong, Maceo?
Is something wrong, Maceo?
James rounds on Bobby.
You got something to say Mr. Byrd?
Because a man got something to say
he should say it. You got something
SILENCE. Vicki looks away. All at once James loses it.
Well then you just HOLDING UP THE
REHEARSAL Mr. Byrd.
I can't have people HOLDING UP THE
REHEARSAL. If I can't do it right I
ain't gone do it at all. We got to
GET ON. GET AHEAD. Now you know the
You late, you off or you hold us
up, it's no good, Mr. Byrd. Its
gonna cost you 50 dollars.
Bobby's jaw tightens. Everyone holds their breath.
Now are you ready Mr. Byrd. Are you
ready Mr. Byrd?
Yes, Mr. Brown.
James glances to Vicki and winks.
Good. I ain't fattening frogs for
snakes. From the top. One Two...
COLD SWEAT resumes. Bobby sings his backing part.
James stands in the middle of the floor. Its good but-
(They all stop)
Clyde man. Lets get that POP! Dee..
app..POP! Unnerstand? It drop
before you reach the beat. Dig?
Jimmy Nolen looks worriedly at Pee Wee.
(Whispers to Waymon)
Does he mean top of the bar?
He means the down beat.
It goin' wrong there Pee Wee, when
it rise up.
But Mr. Brown.
Maceo pauses and waits to be acknowledged by James. James
turns and glares at Maceo.
We rehearsed it like you told us.
We got it like you like it.
Jimmy can't do that with the part
he's playing. We can change the
part if you want.
Did I say change the part? Don't
change the part. How many records
James sarcastically responds to Maceo's silence.
Thank you! I like the part he
playin' now. I just want it in a
Blank stares from the band. James walks over to Clyde's snare
What's this, Maceo.
It's a snare, Mr. Brown.
A snare what?
James moves over to Jimmy. Points to his guitar.
What's this, Maceo?
Guitar, Mr. Brown.
No it's not.
James goes back to Clyde and points to Maceo's sax
What's that, Pee Wee?
A drum, Mr. Brown?
Now you're getting it.
James crosses to Pinckney and points to Odum's guitar
What's that he's holding.
James points to the horn section.
You Fellas. What are those shiny
things you holding.
EVERYBODY IN THE ROOM
Now we all got our drums. Now when
you're playing the drum it don't
matter what key you're in, what bar
your in or what planet you on.
But Mr. Brown.
Maceo pauses and waits for JB to acknowledge him.
Clyde'll be in a different time to
the rest of the band. That doesn't
They all know it.
But does it sound good?
The band nods.
JAMES BROWN (CONT'D)
Does it feel good?
JAMES BROWN (CONT'D)
Then it's musical. So play it like
I say. From the top.
The groove of COLD SWEAT comes to life. The beat heavier,
almost irregular but actually in the pocket, the horns and
Bass clipped, drum-like, the off rhythm of Jimmy's guitar
bringing the whole room together.
119A EXT. POOL AREA BAR. SAME TIME. 119A
Our racist couple has now bellied up to an outside bar. Cold
Sweat leaks out into the bar area.
Unable to help themselves, the couple rises and begins to
119B BACK INSIDE THE REHEARSAL: 119B
The band is really hitting it hard. Vicky, Bobby...everyone
Mmmn! Huh! Now that a groove.
By God it is. James starts singing the cut.
INT. HOTEL BAR. NIGHT. 1967
The recording session is over. James has long since gone.
Maceo and Bobby relax at the bar.
Bobby, James Brown's my meal
ticket. So I just shut my ears and
chomp down his bullshit. But why
you soak it up man? You his best
friend. You know him for time
brother. And he treat you like
that. I was you I'd bust him in his
Bobby Byrd nods his head.
I hang in there cause I remember
the day that I knew. Knew I was
never gonna be in front.
He looks at Maceo with a calm, measured sense of reality.
BOBBY BYRD (CONT'D)
You work so hard at this one thing
and then one day you realize it
ain't supposed to be you. You can
get mad. Try to fight it but if
it's God's truth. It's God's truth.
James is supposed to be in front. I
saw it happen. And the man in front
has to BE the man in front. It
ain't always pretty but that's the
man's responsibility if he wanna
stay there. And you and me can't
know what that is. We ain't
supposed to. So, don't lie to
Every man in this band walks taller
because he with James Brown. Every
man in this band believe in himself
a little more because he's with
You sure you just ain't too scared
to be in the front?
No. But my ears a' open. Open your
ears, Maceo. He's a genius. And
he's takin' us with him.
INT. KING RECORDING STUDIO. DAY. 1968 JAMES 35 YRS
Boiling studio. James drenched in sweat howls at the
Mother, she got to have. Say, you
got to have a mother for me. Yeah,
The band sit right into the groove of MOTHER POPCORN and
sweet thunder rolls onto another master tape. Everyone's eyes
are glued to James standing in the centre: directing them
with body movements and gestures, playing the whole band like
a single instrument.
We missing something.
(They look at each other. It was perfect.)
Pee Wee, get over here by the
microphone. And bring that horn
box. That's where you keep the wig,
They all stop. Oh. Shit.
Now Pee Wee stands at the Microphone, uncomfortable, with the
wig on, singing the song.
James is in with the horns, who are all crying with laughter,
enjoying the hell out of this rare moment of levity. James,
deadpan, eggs him on. Pee Wee calls for a horn solo from him.
SUDDENLY there's a commotion in the mixing booth. James
brings them to a stop.
What is it? Why we stop Henry?
The engineers hands go to their faces. Shaking heads.
What? What is it?
Bobby enters the room.
It's King. They shot Dr. King.
BLACKOUT: SFX: BURNING. SIRENS. GUNFIRE.
TELEVISION FOOTAGE. Riots all over America. Police beating
back groups of rioting youths.
122 INT. KING RECORDS - SYD NATHAN'S OFFICE - NIGHT. 122
James sits watching the carnage unfold. Ben Bart knocks and
Jimmy, Mayor of Boston's office
called. Wanted you to know they've
cancelled tomorrow's show at the
Garden. For reasons of public
safety. He's worried about rioting.
James doesn't look away from the screen.
Tell the Mayor, I sold 30 million
records and ninety five percent of
them are to the black community.
They listen to me. They won't riot
We have virtual race war looming
across the South, Jimmy. Politics,
101? Don't put 10,000 angry blacks
together in one place in the middle
of a city, and broadcast it live to
Get the Mayor on the phone.
INT. KING RECORDS. SYD NATHAN'S OFFICE - NIGHT.
James is on the phone with the mayor
Mr. Mayor, the way I see it, you
already lost your next election.
You lost it at 7:05 PM Memphis
124 INT. BOSTON MAYOR OFFICE - NIGHT. 124
The mayor listens intently with the phone pressed to his ear.
Now tomorrow night, you either got
10,000 angry folks in the Boston
Garden, or you got 10,000 angry
folks on your front lawn. Take your
pick son. Which one you want?
INT. BOSTON GARDENS. NIGHT. 1968 JAMES 35 YRS
Tension in the air. Police on every exit. Dogs. On stage,
MAYOR WHITE speaks to a restless audience.
All of us are here to night to
listen to a great talent. James
Brown. But we're also here to pay
tribute to one of the greatest
Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King.
So, let us look at each other and pledge that
whatever else any other community might do we in
Boston will honour Dr. King in peace.
James steps forward.
Brother before I get to this next
thing I wanna say. He's a young man
He's a young man so he's thinking
together. The man is together. Give
him another round of applause.
James watches the restless, shouting, crowd. He looks at the
cameramen. The tension is unbearable. He lets it build.
A fast, rhythmic drum solo. Building. Faces in the crowd. The
police. Tense promoters and politicians to the beating
The band whipcrack into I GOT THE FEELING. James pulsates.
Spins. Pushes the stand away. Zip! It's back.
A kid at the front gets onto the stage and sprints for James
only to be tackled by James' security. Another clambers up
but is kicked back by a police officer. The audience react
Another kid gets on stage and cops harshly push him to the
floor and throw him back into the audience. Police come out
onto the right side of the stage and shine torches down into
the audience. They shove people back down.
A kid in a white jacket leaps on stage right in front of
James. For a moment everyone stops. A white cop appears from
nowhere and viciously bodychecks the kid back into the front
row in full view of the cameras.
The mayor stands in the wings flanked by policemen. Dede
stands behind them watching nervously.
On stage James stops the band.
Wait a minute. Step off. Move off.
I'll be a'ight here. I be fine.
James waves the police off the stage on either side to cheers
and whistles from the audience.
Suddenly a ten year old kid appears next to James from out of
the audience. He seems amazed to find himself there.
Do you wanna dance son? You dance.
No longer held back by police more kids invade the stage.
James respects them all, shaking hands and looking at them
eye to eye. Kids throng around him on stage. He's losing
C'mon. C'mon now. Y'all go down. Go
back down. Don't nobody else come
up. Wait a minute. Wait. Ladies and
gentleman. This is no way. This is.
We are black. We are black.
Wait a minute go back. Can't y'all
go back down and lets do the show
together. We're black don't make us
all look bad. Let me finish the
show. Step down there. Be a
gentleman. Lets represent our own
selves. Lets represent our own
One by one they step back down into the crowd.
Now I ask the police to step back
because I figure I could get some
respect from my own people. Now we
together ain't we.
Hit that thing man.
The band strike back up and James kicks back into "I Can't
Stand Myself" The stage clear. The crowd calmed. The panic
(to a policeman)
Holy shit. He did it.
Of course he did.
Dede smiles proudly.
I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing kicks in over intercut
Archival footage of Newscasters discussing the last minute
decision for the concert to go ahead.
INT. ARCHIVAL NEWS REPORT.
HEADLINE, under a picture of James: RACIAL PEACE RESTORED IN
CAPITOL AFTER RIOTING.
ARCHIVAL NEWS REPORT
City officials in Washington DC
have praised James Brown. Order has
returned to the city hit by rioting
largely because of radio and
television appeals from the soul
singer over the weekend.
OVER JAMES' PERFORMANCE AT THE GARDEN AS YOUNG BLACK GUYS
In America today you've either got
to be an entertainer or a ball
player or what? If you poor, young
and black, what is there? And you
ask me why they on the street? It
ain't politics we watchin'. It's
INT. JAMES BROWN PRODUCTIONS LEAR JET. NIGHT.
James is on the plane with Ben Bart.
You got kids out there that can't
eat, robbing and stealing and doing
what they have to do to make it.
And if you don't do something about
it we gonna lose the country. I go
to Harlem, talk to Rap Brown, talk
to the Nation they call me a
separatist. Here we're on our way
to the White House, Pop, and they
already calling me an Uncle Tom. So
what I supposed to do?
Write a check for Rap so he buy
rifles, machine guns, rally on
125th and take it south? What it
say to you, a street kid from
Augusta, Georgia in the White
It says you kissin' up to the Man
James is taken aback. No-one else in the world could say
You asking me to turn this plane
around and stand up the President?
No. I'm saying who gives a shit.
You're already screwed, James.
Think about it. If you stand up
Lyndon Johnson to go kiss up to the
Panthers, you ain't gone be playin'
Vegas anytime soon because if they
think you can stop a riot, they
sure as hell will expect you to
So here I am. Just a sorry soul
brother whining inside his private
They both laugh. But James is troubled. Bart tone changes.
Don't be scared my friend. Because
if you're scared, it doesn't end
well for the black man. Do your
(He looks at him hard)
It's worked for you so far.
128 INT. WHITE HOUSE - NEXT MORNING - 1968 128
CLOSE ON JAMES WITH HIS HEAD TILTED BACK TALKING UPWARD:
I want to go to Vietnam. I want to
show unity for the boys out there.
The beleaguered, the tired and in
And we need to bring awareness, and
Mr. President, we need to bring the
super heavy funk.
We widen to see 5'7" James looking up to the 6'4" Lyndon
Johnson. President Johnson shakes James' hand.
128A INT. HANGER. VIETNAM. 128A
We are now back in Vietnam at the hanger concert. James
looks right at us.
Take it and flip it.
129 EXT. GOLF COURSE - MORNING. 129
Ben Bart is playing golf with several friends. Bart drives
the ball straight and hard. We watch as the ball land three
hundred yards down the runway.
Back on the tee box. Ben Bart lays face down dead in the
turf. His friends race to his side in shock.
Ben's face is pressed sideways on the grass. His opened,
dead eyes stare right at us.
130 EXT. CEMETERY - DAY 130
A casket lays at the bottom of a grave that has been dug.
TEN MALE FUNERAL ATTENDEES IN SUITS AND YAMMAKAS take turns
shoveling dirt onto Ben Bart's casket.
Dede and James stand to the side. Completely distraught.
James starts to panic and lowers to the ground. Dede catches
him under the arm.
One of the men approach James with the shovel. James can't
bring himself to put dirt on the casket.
INT. RECORDING STUDIO. LOS ANGELES. NIGHT.
BAND MEMBERS FITTED WITH THEIR AFRICAN DASHIKIS are rolling a
funky vamp together into a groove. Clyde hits a fat `pop pop'
beat. Sweet Charles locks the bass line in to the beat.
Country finds a chunky B-flat-9 rhythm on the guitar and the
groove takes shape.
The door opens. James and Teddy walk in. James and Teddy's
hair is cut into a short natural. Everyone looks at each
The band starts. James makes a few adjustments. Jimmy Nolen
strikes up a womp-womp sound on a single string. The horns do
the James trademark ladidadidat.
(he pushes the intercom to the booth)
Bring `em in.
The door opens. 32 children enter the room. Most kids are
black, except for a few Mexican children. Dede and Teddy are
there, along with some of James' other kids.
How we all doin'. Hope this ain't
too late for you folks.
James and Teddy stand before the group. James puts his arms
around Teddy as he addresses the kids.
I brought you all here today so I
could tell you something very
I want you all to know that you can
do or be anything you want in this
world. Don't let anybody tell you
anything different. You understand?
When I was a boy I used to shine
shoes in front of radio station.
Now I own that radio station. You
got to build it. And then you gotta
learn it... and that's when you
James gets all the kids around one mic. He puts Dede and
Teddy to the side of the kids.
Later everyone is cued. Maceo whispers to Pee Wee Ellis.
You think they fuck up he gone take
they pocket money.
Pee Wee laughs and nods his head.
We ready fellas?
The groove starts again. James flies into I'm Black and I'm
WHICH PLAYS OVER ADDRESSING US DIRECTLY
I think about a lot of things.
About problems. About solutions.
You know one way of solving a lot
of problems that we've got in this
country...is letting a person feel
that they important.
Feel that they somebody. It's it.
Man can't get hisself together...
...until he know who he is and be
proud of what and who he is and
where he come from! WHERE WE ALL
James leaves us and continues with the song. He looks to the
Say it loud!
They scream into the mic.
I'm Black and I'm Proud!
James catches eyes with Teddy. He nods proudly. Teddy smiles.
JAMES BROWN - GHETTO REALITY BEGINS TO PLAY AND CONTINUES
OVER THE NEXT FEW SCENES
131A EXT. AUNT HONEY'S 1968 HOUSE IN THE LATTER YEARS - DAY 131A
James and Teddy pull up in front of a small shotgun house in
the Terry. They exit and walk up to the house.
131B INT. 1968 AUNT HONEY'S 1968 HOUSE IN THE LATTER YEARS- 131B
Aunt Honey, now 70, sits in a chair in front of a small TV.
We soon gather that she has "retired" and is at the end of
her colorful life.
James has brought Teddy to meet Aunt Honey for the first
Teddy extends his hand toward Aunt Honey. Aunt Honey shakes
his hand and then brings him in close for an embrace.
132-134 OMITTED 132-134
135 INT. JAMES BROWN PRODUCTIONS. JAMES BROWN'S OFFICE. NIGHT 135
James is standing in his office bathroom smoking a joint. He
lights it and has four or five epic pulls as he scans the
walls admiring his framed accolades and gold records.
END GHETTO REALITY:
135AA INT. JAMES BROWN PRODUCTIONS. NEXT MORNING. 135AA
James Brown enters his recording booth to find Teddy at the
controls. Gertie sits in a chair behind Teddy.
You the man, Teddy Brown?
I'm the man, Mr. Brown.
James notices the band sitting idle on the other side of the
Gertie. The band ready?
They're ready Mr. Brown.
Don't look like it.
James grabs Teddy.
JAMES BROWN (CONT'D)
Come watch how Poppa don't take no
He and Teddy walk straight into the-
INT. JAMES BROWN PRODUCTIONS. STUDIO. DAY.
The band is there.
Y'all act like y'all don't know
what time it is. What you doin'?
Nothing happens. James looks Maceo in the eye. Maceo
I've been elected spokesman to
speak on behalf of the band.
We asked to get paid on time. We
haven't been paid in weeks. We
asked for scheduled days off. Every
day off we get you make us
rehearse.. We asked to get paid for
recording but you included it in
James turns to Teddy. The two stare at each other.
Teddy, go on and wait outside.
Fellas. I hear ya. I really do. And
I appreciate the honesty. That
can't be easy. No Sir. You got
grievances. You got your own selves
to think about. Hell, you're men. I
I don't think you understand.
James looks to Bobby.
We know you owe the government back
Your restaurant, radio stations,
recording studios, labels, all
different businesses, Unaccounted
cash passing between them.
It's a mess, Mr. Brown and if you
want us to be a part of it, we
gonna need our cash too. Right now.
James looks at them all for a very long time hiding his
And most of all none of us ever
want to be fined for anything ever
James nods. Studying them.
I'll tell ya what I'm gonna do. I'm
gonna think about it. That's all.
They look at each other and file out. Waymon, Pee Wee, Maceo,
Kush and Jimmy Nolen file out. Leaving Bobby and James alone.
He looks at the empty room. Smiling. Unable to show any pain.
(He shakes his head.)
It's like I always say Bobby. You
gotta know who you are. You got to
know where you are in this world.
Five minutes ago, those boys were
the best band on the planet. Now
they nothing. Now they a bunch of
sidemen with their hearts beatin'
fast. Maceo comin' in here talking
about my taxes. All I've done for
this country and they comin' after
James Brown? How you gone keep
everybody happy? Huh? And stay on
top? You along for the ride while
everything is groovy and now they
gone kick me when I'm down? People
either on the bus or they off it.
James crosses to the door and opens it for Bobby to exit
(He turns to Bobby.)
Well go on. Get out of here.
Y'might catch `em they gone need a
Bobby rises and walks past James into the foyer. He turns.
Negro, what makes you think I'm
leaving? I been here all the time,
Mr. Brown. I'm still here.
James looks at Bobby.
See that's the thing about the
funk. The funk don't quit.
Last time I checked.
Cause if the funk gone up'n'quit
That's why the funk don't quit.
Are we done here Mr. Byrd?
I'm afraid we ain't Mr. Brown.
Are we done?
I think we got more funk in the
That's right. Two Musketeers.
Bobby looks at James. Remembers. Beams. James beams back.
Then, James is all business.
What's those kids from Cincinnati.
The New Dapps...Blackenizers? Who
that kid play bass?
135B INT. OLYMPIA THEATRE 135B
A pre-show theater in action with stagehands and riggers busy
setting up. The new kids are now all in suits and bow ties.
Fancy suit bro'.
Backatcha slick. How you doin,
Just shit my pants.
Easy now. Don't forget. Don't ever
call him James or nothin'. He ain't
no-one but Mr. Brown.
James Brown walks in from the wings. They all stand
straighter. He looks at them.
Good evening Mr. Brown.
Mr. Brown. Mr. Brown.
Do that button up son.
You know Kansas City?
You know Cold Sweat? Do you know
Can I stop you Mr. Brown. We been
learning off yo' records since we
was nine years old. You already
taught us the songs. So with
respect. We ready. Mr. Brown.
They say they ready Mr. Byrd. What
We been waiting for this moment our
entire lives, Mr. Brown.
How old are you son?
Cats know Super Bad?
Bootsy lays down a mammoth bass line on his plugged in bass.
INT. PARIS HOTEL ROOM. LATE AFTERNOON.
The backup singer, Yvonne, nude, carries two glasses of
champagne from a wet bar to a very sweaty James who is lying
Why won't you say it? I said it.
Why won't you say it back?
Baby, I gotta get to my show. I
can't be playin' around right now
I love you.
Yvonne rests the cold glass on James' stomach. He squirms.
You know I don't drink.
Yvonne pours a little champagne onto James' stomach. She
then begins licking it with her tongue.
Say it, Mr. Brown. Say you love me.
In a flash James rolls over and pins Yvonne down on her back.
She screams with delight.
He whispers in her ear.
She kisses him.
James stares back at her without expression.
135D FLASH FORWARD - ADULT JAMES, IMMACULATE, LOOKING AT US. 135D
THE SKYLINE OF PARIS IS BEHIND HIM. 1971
James walks along the outside of Olympia Theatre in Paris in
Now it's true, we work hard. A man
gotta work hard if he wanna break
ground. And we breaking new ground
James enter the theatre front door.
135E INT. OLYMPIA THEATRE. LOBBY. CONTINUOUS. 135E
James begins walking toward us.
My record Live at the Apollo is the
first R&B album in the history of
the world to go top ten. Stayed up
in there for 66 weeks..
James walks into the rear of the packed house.
GIRLS AND GUYS SCREAMING, DANCING. JAMES IS INVISIBLE TO
From the rear of the house, James watches himself and the
band performing on stage. He and his band are IN MID-GROOVE.
A BEAUTIFUL BLACK DANCER DANCES ON A RISER BEHIND THE BAND.
Vicki Anderson, sings backup.
That record come across. I mean it
hit hard!!! Uhn!
135F INT. OLYMPIA THEATRE. STAGE. CONTINUOUS. 135F
James walks among his performing band members. He watches
himself on stage at the microphone driving the crowd crazy.
And slowly, the whole World knew
who we were.
James walks to each band member and places a twenty dollar
bill in each of their pockets. They don't see the James who
is talking directly to us.
He straightens a band members tie. James turns to stage left
and sees his son, Teddy Brown, dancing. He then gives Yvonne
a wink who's also standing in the wings looking HOT.
See in showbusiness, you got two
parts. You got the show and you got
the business. And brother.
You better believe. You looking at
He spins around and runs up to the microphone. He replaces
himself and begins to sing.
SCREAMS. HORNS VAMPING. James performs out of his skin. A
medley of three songs, "Soul Power," into "Sex Machine," into
Backup dancers and singers are tearing it up!
On James' signal the rag tag band of kids behind the
godfather of soul take off like a rocket ship into one of the
above songs. It sounds nothing like the old version. Its raw
urgent, stripped down. The Bootsy's bass rumbles like trouble
brewing and Catfish's over driven guitar slicing clean
through the hook.
Before them a standing room crown dance and sing from the
stage to all the way back to entrance
James and Bobby look at each other. Holy shit.
James drops into the splits, flips up again.
The crowd is seeing something for the first time on European
soil. They erupt with joy and begin dancing in their seats.
136-138 OMITTED 136-138
INT. OLYMPIA STAGE. SAME NIGHT.
The crowd has left. A custodian roams the isles picking up
trash. James and Bobby sit on the edge of an empty stage,
You know what I think? After we put
out my next solo album, I bet I
could play Paris or the Apollo.
James TUNES IN
I was just saying when me and you
put out my new record, I bet I
could fill this place all myself.
James stiffens at this comment.
What the hell you talking about?
"Fill this place all myself"? "No
problem?" You sayin' I'm slippin'?
No I don't think you slippin'. You
James Brown. You ain't never
slippin'. I was just...
People copy me, Mr. Byrd. People
gonna copy my moves till the earth
goes dark. You understand? You
think people are gonna buy that
record like they buy my record?
That what you sayin'?
Who you been tellin' this too? You
been telling that to the Apollo?
Bobby gets mad.
No, James! I haven't told nobody
but you. We were just talking.
I thought you be cool with that.
You always been talking about...
About... About... standin' on my
Bobby, how you gone stand on your
own feet? You just spent twenty
years gettin' fat on a man's
dollar. I produce a record for you
and now it's gone to your head.
You go talking big behind my back.
You go sneaking round, raising heat
off another man's name. We here, we
doing something and you making
Bobby gets more upset. He's using a tone with James we've
never heard before.
I ain't told nobody or made any
plans. We just talkin' about it.
Now. That's it.
I'm ashamed of you, Bobby. And you
should be ashamed of you. Now you
tryin' to run around with Vicki.
Don't jive yourself bro'. Now,
Vicki, she could fill this place.
Well, Vicki ain't yours. So, Vicki
and me ain't none of your damn
But she's been my business before.
Bobby walks up close to James and stares him in the eye. He
balls his fist.
I can't do this no more, James.
Damn right you can't do this no
I said I can't do this no more.
James looks absolutely poleaxed. THEN. He laughs. And looks
at Bobby, almost affectionately.
See, the funny part. You say that
like it's a big thing. Like
"oh my God, Bobby Byrd gone leave
James Brown on his own."
Bobby fights to control himself. To find anything left to
I ain't leaving you on your own,
Mr. Brown. You already on your own.
He shakes his head and walks across the stage. He turns.
Is that God too?
Bobby turns and leaves James ALONE.
INT. OLYMPIA. NIGHT. 1970
Bobby walks across the big empty stage and for a split second
looks right at us. He continues past us and away.
INT. APOLLO CORRIDOR / DRESSING ROOM.
FLASHBACK - Corridor in 1962. The Night of Live At The
MUSIC: Wonder When You're Coming Home plays over:
A woman in a flower print dress and a cheap hat sits on a
bench with a coat over her arm. A young Bobby comes out of
the dressing room. She stands.
INT. APOLLO DRESSING ROOM. NIGHT.
BOOM! A flashbulb goes off.
James sits next to his mother, on a couch, SMILING Happily,
having the moment documented. She is smiling too. Bobby and
other guests in the room watch the photographers.
The photographer is ushered out of the room by Bobby Byrd.
Bobby? Get everybody out of here
and wait outside.
Bobby ushers the guests outside.
James sits opposite his mother. She is very, very
uncomfortable but trying to appear relaxed.
I was on the Subway last week, and
the two kids next to me was arguing
who was the best, James Brown or
Little Willy John. And this one
boy, he was saying "James Brown the
best" "There ain't no one better
than James Brown", he got so mad I
thought he was gonna whup this
other boy. And then-
James holds up his hand. She falls silent.
(She stops, her face falls.)
Why you come here?
She starts to flap.
Well. Sugar, I live over in
Brooklyn... and you my baby and you
here playin' the Apollo.
I don't want you to feel proud.
I ain't your sugar. I ain't your
baby. Not then. Not now. And I
don't want you to tell anyone you
my momma, because you and me know
that ain't true.
Your daddy beat me. Beat you. I
stayed because I loved you. I
didn't know nothin' about being a
wife. Nothin' about being a mother.
I did the best I could. I did that.
I left because I loved you. I ain't
had nothing to make no other
choice. I was shamed. I was.
He holds up his hand.
See I thought about this. I know it
weren't personal and that's why
this ain't neither. It turned out
fine. I didn't need you. I looked
after James Brown. Made sure he was
OK. No-one else. No-one help me.
She starts to cry.
I never wanted to be a momma. But I
carried you, boy. I didn't know
nothin' about being a wife or being
a momma. But I carried you and I
loved you when you were in me. I
chose you. I chose you.
Don't cry. Don't cry. Don't cry.
He stiffly offers her a handkerchief.
Clean yourself up. That's it.
I'm James Brown. And James Brown
don't need nothing. Don't need no-
Susie looks back a James. She doesn't move.
Why are you really here? What do
She shakes her head, searching his face. James looks back
unmoved. James reaches in is pocket and pulls out some money.
He hands it to her.
Here. That's a hundred dollars.
I'm sorry but I'm gonna ask you to
He sits perfectly still as she gets up. She walks to the door
and turns to James.
You're so beautiful. You're so
Susie exits into the party outside and shuts the door.
143 EXT. CABIN - BARNWELL S.C. 1941. JAMES 8 YRS 143
We return to the day that Susie left. We stay on her face as
she leaves her family behind. Tears stream down her cheek.
James tries to chase after his mother but Joe restrains him.
Joe pulls a pistol from his belt. He fires.
Bark explodes from a tree a few feet from where Susie is
Susie flinches but never turns.
Bobby waits. The door opens, and Susie comes out, tears in
her eyes. She looks wildly into Bobby's face who has clearly
heard everything. She runs off down the corridor.
Bobby looks through the open door. Devastated, James sits
staring at the floor. He looks up at Bobby.
Tell Pop to make sure she's taken
care of. Whatever she needs.
As Bobby nods, James gets up, walks over to the door, and
slowly closes it.
145 INT. JAMES BROWN'S HOME. 1988. 18 YEARS LATER. 145
JAMES 55 YRS
CLOSE ON - Numerous framed pictures of Teddy span all ages of
his life now fill the top of James' dresser.
We widen to find James Brown sitting very alone in his
bedroom staring at the pictures of his son.
He wears a bathrobe. His hair is up in rollers. He's twitchy
He raises a glass pipe to his mouth, lites the PCP within and
EXT. COUNTRY ROAD. LATER THAT DAY. 1988
A peaceful road. SUDDENLY - a pickup truck passes at a
hundred MPH. FOLLOWED.. A MOMENT LATER - by nine cop cars.
A cop car pulls up next to James' truck. James looks to the
SLOW MOTION SEQUENCE:
In the front a cop drives but James' father, Joe, rides in
the back next to his mother, Susie. They stare blankly at
Glass shatters in the truck.
SLOW MOTION ENDS.
James turns back to the cop car next to him. The vision of
his parents is gone.
Two cops ride together. The cop in the front seat aims his
revolver directly at James. It's clear he intends to kill
James speeds up as the cop fires. The bullet strikes the
truck just behind him.
EXT. GRAVEL PITTS. 1988. DAY.
The pickup truck rolls to a stop. Police cars from different
jurisdictions take up positions blocking exit routes.
INT./ EXT. PICKUP TRUCK/ GRAVEL PITTS. DAY.
James sits staring straight ahead. Breathing hard.
I'm OK. I'm OK. I'm OK.
EXIT THE VEHICLE WITH YOUR HANDS
ABOVE YOUR HEAD. DO NOT RUN. DO NOT
ATTEMPT TO START THE VEHICLE.
James opens the door scattering glass onto the tarmac.
Around the perimeter armed police tense. Keeping James in
ONLY NOW, YOUNG JAMES STANDS IN PLACE OF HIS ADULT SELF. He
stands next to the bullet riddled wreckage of his pickup,
hands above his head. He leans back and sings to the sky.
"I Don't Feel Noways Tired"
INT. PRISON WING. DAY. 1988
A warden walks a dishevelled James along the corridor. They
stop. The cell door buzzes open. They put him in the cell.
INT. CELL. DAY.
The doors slide close. CLANK. James leans on the tiny sink.
He looks up into the mirror and faces what's he's become.
His face is bloated, his eyes wild, hair unkempt. We feel
James wanting to turn to us but shame won't allow it.
FLASHBACK - INT. ST. STEPHENS CHURCH. DAY. 1952
BOBBY, NAFLOYD, BABY ROY SARAH AND JAMES sing righteous
gospel that first time together in St. Stephens Church.
James is Really giving it up singing Send it on Down. His
voice soars sweetly over the congregation.
MRS. BYRD and GRANDPA watch on. Mrs. Byrd leans forward and
catches Bobby's eye. Gives a small nod of approval for James.
Bobby looks to James. They catch eyes. In awe of James'
talent, Bobby unconsciously, stops singing. He just stands
their watching and listening to his friend.
152 END FLASHBACK - BACK AT THE MIRROR 152
James pulls back from the mirror and splashes some water on
his face and begins to press his hair down with his hands.
He breathes harder and harder as he assesses his life.
He stands straight and proud. Still looking in the mirror,
he begins to chant quietly to himself.
James Brown, James Brown. James
Brown, James brown.
153 EXT. SUBURBAN STREET. ATLANTA. MORNING. 1993 JAMES 60 YRS 153
A pool cleaning truck pulls up outside a suburban home. A
thirty something white guy gets out with a satchel. He
rings on the door.
Bobby Byrd, aged sixty, comes out of his house in a robe
Morning Mr. Byrd. Come to open up
Got a real algae problem.
I'll take a look.
Sure. You need anything, I be
As the Pool Cleaner walks around to the back yard, Bobby
walks towards the pool cleaning truck parked on the
153A EXT. STREET. BEHIND TRUCK. MOMENTS LATER. 153A
Bobby pulls out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket as
he walks behind the truck. He pulls out a smoke and
Bobby soon notices a Limo parked on the other side of the
street. He stares at it for a while. The door opens.
James Browns gets out of the Limo and waves.
Bobby watches as James approaches. He's clean and sober
in a suit looking sharp. James' appearance and presence
They shake hands.
What you doing out here in your
robe, Mr. Byrd?
What? Oh. See, I snuck out for a
smoke. I s'posed to quit. Vicki
He laughs. They both do.
Well I ain't gone tell.
They laugh a little. When they stop, there's a long lull.
Well I was just passing. Playing a
show tonight at the Omni.
Say. Maybe you and Vicki could come
along. We got a great new horn
section. Tight. We getting there.
We got plans tonight. Vicki got
family coming over.
Well you think about it. See what
Bobby laughs. Rumbled.
Yeah. She still in charge.
They both chuckle at this. A nod of understanding. But then:
You look well.. Man. I ain't seen
Bobby pauses, grows uncomfortable. Bobby throws his cigarette
to the ground and stomps it out.
Right. Teddy's funeral. Damn. You
look well. You shoulda called-
You know, Bobby, they still don't
know what happened to Teddy and
that boy. Those boys weren't
drinkin' or doin' drugs.
I know, James.
No sir. Nothin' like that. He was
a good boy. The car just hit that
bridge head on. We ain't ever gone
know how or why. They say he didn't
feel a thing.
That's good, James.
But we brought him back to Augusta
didn't we? Got him home then sent
him on to the Lord.
We did, Mr. Brown. We did.
James stands there, fixedly. The Pool cleaner comes from
around the truck, breaks the tension.
OK. Mr. Byrd. I fixed your problem.
I'll be back in the Spring to open
I'm much obliged. Do I have to-
No no. We'll send the bill on. Well
that's that. Good day Gentlemen.
He gets in his truck and pulls away leaving Bobby and James
standing in an awkward silence.
Look at that. We got white folk
cleaning our pool. Come a long way
huh, Mr. Byrd?
Yeah. We come a long way.
Suddenly this is awkward. For both of them. Bobby defuses it:
You still makin' the steps, Mr.
Here and there.
You hurtin' a little in the hips?
A little. You?
Not me. I just get stronger ever
day. Gettin' better every day.
James pulls out two concert tickets from his jacket and hands
them to Bobby.
Maybe you and Vicki got some
friends who could come tonight.
Good seats, too.
James turns sharply and walks back to the Limo. He sings to
Oh, Mary Don't You Weep...
Bobby listens. And remembers.
Tell Martha Not to Moan.
He stops and turns to Bobby.
What's the next line?
Bobby looks at James.
I can't seem to recall. Was a long
James nods. After a moment Bobby nods.
See you around Mr. Brown.
Bobby turns. James watches as he walks back to his house.
See you around Mr. Byrd.
James walks towards his Limo.
SFX: Audience noise, cheering, whistles, clapping. Louder.
INT. DRESSING ROOM. 1993. NIGHT.
Show time. James sits in front of the mirror, putting on
greasepaint with the assistance of a make-up artists.
A much older Gertrude comes in.
How we doin, Gertrude?
To the rafters Mr. Brown. To
That's good. You two gimme a minute
Gertrude and the make-up artist look at each other. They
Alone, he looks around the dressing room. At the walls. The
ceiling fan. Finally at his reflection. He holds his own
gaze. We push in, as he fights it. And fights it.
Slowly, inevitably the sound from the auditorium grows.
Thousands of people shouting his name: "JAMES BROWN JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN, JAMES BROWN.".
FLASHBACK - INT. JAIL CELL. 1949. DAY.
JAMES AGED SIXTEEN, SITS ALONE, staring at the wall.
Incanting his name, quietly. Intently.
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN...
The crowd are going wild.
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
EXT. CHURCH/ DIRT ROAD. DAY. 1941.
Young James, 8, walking through the forest alone, hollering
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
INT. AUDITORIUM - EVERYONE CHANTING
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
EXT. BARREN PATH. DAY. 1942.
YOUNG JAMES, nine, battered, bruised and shirtless walks
toward us with the number "One" painted on his chest. He says
his name to himself over and over.
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
We soon realize this is the same path where he discovered the
body of the lynched young man.
INT. AUDITORIUM - EVERYONE CHANTING.
We see Bobby and Vicki in the crowd.
Slowly Bobby begins to whisper..
James Brown. James Brown...
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
EXT. RIVER. DAY. 1942.
Bloodied 9 year old James begins walking by the side of a
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
INT. DRESSING ROOM.
SLOWLY James stands, buttons his jacket and opens the
dressing room door.
James Brown. James Brown. James
163 INT. BACKSTAGE CORRIDOR. 163
James marches out of the room into the corridor..
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
...two assistants fall into step and we follow on his
shoulder as he struts his way past the dressing rooms, to the
wings, where the band stand.
INT. STAGE WINGS.
Alone, JAMES closes his eyes. Bows his head.
...the Hardest Working Man in show
business, Mr. Dynamite...
165 EXT. RIVER. DAY. 165
Over announcer's introduction we watch Young James reach the
Mr. Please, Please himself..
His head and body proud, overlooking the mighty river.
DANNY RAY V/O
..ladies and gentlemen its
showtime...the one and only
YOUNG JAMES, eyes closed saying his name over and over.
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
YOUNG JAMES suddenly opens his swollen eyes and looks right
YOUNG JAMES (CONT'D)
I paid the cost to be the boss.
James leans back, widens his arms and looks to the sky.
INT. THE STAGE.
James steps forward and strides across the stage to the mic
JAMES BROWN JAMES BROWN, JAMES
BROWN, JAMES BROWN.
He looks out over the crowd. Then... He begins to sing a
capella. He stares right us.
Try me. Try me. Darlin tell me.
I need you. Try me. Try me.
And your love will always be true
The crowd goes silent. All we hear is Mr. Brown's soulful
Oh I need you (I need you)
Hold me. Hold me. I want you right
here by my side. Hold me. Hold me.
And your love we won't hide
Slowly Bobby smiles. Tears in his eyes.