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August 2014

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Page 17 of 51 16 POST AUGUST 2014 ith just one small comedy — the 2008 Pretty Ugly People — on his resume, Tate Taylor's directing career got turbo-charged thanks to his 2011 trium- phant and Oscar-winning The Help, which he also co-wrote and co-produced. Now, the Mississippi native has tackled another story that's both dear to his heart and close to his roots — Get On Up, the biopic of James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul," embodied by Chadwick Boseman, who gave another magical performance as Jackie Robinson in 42. Co-produced by Mick Jagger and Bri- an Grazer, the fi lm was shot in Mississippi and details Brown's legendary life and career, warts and all. Here, in an exclusive interview with Post, Taylor talks about making the fi lm, the challenges involved and his love of post. What do you look for in a project and what sort of fi lm did you set out to make with this? "I always look for story — lots of it. I'm not one to go see a road trip movie with two people (laughs). I like lots of intertwining characters. I was a big fan of Robert Altman from a young age, and it just stuck with me. I also need to have humor, followed by pathos, and I love it when the two are wedged up together scene-wise, where you never see one or the other coming. And I strive to make movies that someone would want to own. I can't guarantee that, but that's my dream — that there's something import- ant to the fi lm, to the subject matter." Did you feel any trepidation about taking on the movie, as biopics can turn out like stuff ed animals if they're too reverential — pretty but lifeless. "You're so right. I've never been a fan of biopics, because you usually know the whole story anyway. But what made me love this story is the complexity of the man. The typical way to do it is, how did he get from here to here? But what I saw in him, what really drove him in ways both good and bad, was his desire to never go backwards. He never wanted to become irrelevant, so he just kept moving forward. And I could really relate. I feel that anyone who achieves some success — you don't want to go away! So there's always this imposter complex we have — and I have it all the time. And any time he felt the world was understanding him or got it, he found a way to say, 'I'm not through.' And that's what I admire about him. Take away all the good and bad, and you have this incredible sense of perseverance and reinvention, which is what drew me to him and the story." And you tell it in a very unconventional way. "Yes, it's extremely nonlinear. It's James' warts and all, but you understand who he was — psychologically and intellectually — and why he made the choices he did. So it's a movie about a really fascinat- ing, complex man — who happens to be James Brown." Did you ever meet James Brown? "No, but I felt I knew him so well growing up in the South, as my mother's favorite music was James Brown and Johnny Mathis — which is a weird pairing!" Like The Help, this deals with race and the South, so what were the biggest challenges in making it? "I didn't want it to have this heavy emphasis on race, and it only relates to those issues in that he knew he had to cross over and capture the white audi- ence, which he did." Tell us about the shoot. How long was it and how tough? "It was very hard. We shot a 130-page script with 96 locations and eight major concerts, that went from the '30s to the '90s — all in just 49 days. And we did it. Chad played from 17 years old to 60, and everyone thought we were crazy to attempt it. It helped that I had a lot of the same people from The Help, and I just let each department do their thing, as we all trust each other." Talk about the look of the fi lm and working with DP Stephen Goldblatt, who shot The Help for you. "One of the reasons I shot in Mississip- pi is that the South is a character once again, and if you're going to represent the South, you've got to be there. And because it's a period piece that spans decades, I chose Natchez, Mississippi, my new adopted hometown, as it has one of the most rigorous preservation policies of anywhere in America. Virtually nothing can be torn down, so you have shotgun shacks and row houses from 1915, and every era of homes is preserved, from antebellum mansions to '60s homes. I love practical locations, and Stephen did such a great job on The Help, so our approach was the same — lots of color, authenticity, and capture the way the South looks". Your editor was Mike McCusker, who worked on Walk the Line and The Amazing Spider-Man; tell us about the editing process. Was he on-set? "He was, but the shoot was so insane I spent very little time with him when we BY IAIN BLAIR Actor Chadwick Boseman (left) and director Tate Taylor (right) on-set. W THE MISSISSIPPI NATIVE TACKLES ANOTHER STORY THAT'S DEAR TO HIS HEART & CLOSE TO HIS ROOTS TATE TAYLOR: GET ON UP DIRECTOR'S CHAIR

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