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Our Top 10 Picks to Star in New James Brown Biopic

"Papa's Got A Brand New...Face?" Who's got the chops and the moves to fill The Godfather of Soul's funky shoes?

1 / 11

NEW YORK - 1964: Soul singer James Brown performs at the Apollo Theatre in New York, New York. (Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael
Michael Ochs Archives

News broke this week that the long-awaited James Brown biopic is finally coming out. "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business" was directly involved in the film until his 2006 death threw things into limbo due to legal troubles.

A big thanks to none other than Mick Jagger who will be producing the film with Brian Grazer (8 Mile, Katy Perry: Part Of Me). A new director is also on board, Tate Taylor (The Help), replacing initial director Spike Lee.

Casting has started for the film. But in case Mick and co. need some suggestions, we've compiled a list of our top picks for who could pull off the role of Soul Brother No. 1.

2 / 11

Bruno Mars

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 12: Bruno Mars performs onstage at The 54th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 12,
Kevin Mazur

The soulful pop star has that same raspy delivery that reminds us of James Brown's signature style. Plus, you can't deny Mars has that '60s soul look down pat. 

All it takes is one viewing of his 2012 Grammy Awards performance to be convinced he can easily pull off Brown’s famous fancy footwork—both can even do the splits!

3 / 11


LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 11: Usher performs on stage as he launches his album 'Looking 4 Myself' at HMV Hammersmith Apol
Christie Goodwin

Singles like “Climax” and “Scream” prove that Usher can match Brown’s vocal range. But the duo's collaboration at the 2005 Grammys may indicate that Usher would be Soul Brother No. 1's personal pick. Not only did Usher emulate Brown’s vocal stylings live, but their dance off, followed by a huge hug, seemed to indicate a metaphorical passing of the torch.

4 / 11


LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 12: Miguel performs on stage at Shepherds Bush Empire on January 12, 2013 in London, United
Christie Goodwin

2012 was the “Adorn” singer's breakout year, but Miguel has actually been hustling in the industry for more than a decade. Should he decide to try a new project in 2013, we humbly suggest the JB role. 

Visually, it's a match as Brown claimed his mother was “Asian-Afro” and Miguel has described his looks as “half-Asian and black.” We’re convinced!

5 / 11

Janelle Monae

Sure, Brown claimed it was a "Man's Man's Man's World," but make-up can do wonders and Monae has embodied Brown’s famous stage performance more than other recent star. Not only has she proven she can keep up with the choreography and nail the wails, but she’s even paid homage to his costumes wearing a Brown-esque cape during her performance at the 2011 Grammy Awards.

6 / 11

Wayne Brady

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 12: Wayne Brady performs at the BET Honors 2013 at Warner Theatre on January 12, 2013 in Washington,
Johnny Nunez

He's not famous for his singing, but we see the resemblance. Plus, get this, Wanye Brady actually is a fantastic singer. He’s even covered fellow soul legend Sam Cooke (a cappella)! 

We'll further convince you with this awesome video from Whose Line Is It Anyway? where he acts out a James Brown vs. Michael Jackson celebrity death match.

7 / 11


SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 19: Seal performs live on stage at Sydney Entertainment Centre on April 19, 2012 in Sydney, Austral
Don Arnold

He has that same rasp in his voice that Brown was known for (he covered “It’s A Man's, Man’s, Man’s World” on Soul). But we admit Seal would have to step up his stage game if he wanted to portray the singer. Depending on how much of Brown’s life is covered in the biopic, Seal could undoubtedly play an elderly Brown. He's bound to have a little more time of his hands now that he's done being a "Sex Machine" with Heidi Klum.

8 / 11

Raphael Saadiq

Jonathan Leibson

Brown’s influence is undeniable on the former Tony! Toni! Toné! member—just take a listen to his 2011 single “Radio”

But Saadiq has proved his acting chops to none other than the casting agents over at NBC. He was set to play Sam Cooke for an episode of The Playboy Club—too bad it was the first show cancelled of the fall 2011 season and the episode never aired. Comeback role anyone?!

9 / 11

Willis Earl Beal

SALISBURY, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: Willis Earl Beal performs on stage during End Of The Road Festival at Larmer Tree Gardens
Andy Sheppard

If execs wanted to find a relative newcomer for the role, they could go for Chicago soul singer Willis Earl Beal. He’s got the insane vocals, a captivating persona, and has even paid homage to Soul Brother No. 1 with a cape of his own at last year's Pitchfork Music Festival.

10 / 11

Cee Lo Green

NEW YORK - APRIL 10: Cee-Lo of the band Gnarls Barkley performs onstage at Highline Ballroom on April 10, 2008 in New York Ci
Bryan Bedder

He loves wearing Brown-esque wigs in concert (see photo) and on The Voice and we know he can sang. Cee Lo might need to go on a bit of fitness kick to be able to pull off Brown’s cardio-like stage show. 

But this is the man who’s performed with Muppets and as a peacock. We’re sure he’d be able to pull it off.

11 / 11

Christina Aguilera

Christina Aguilera performs "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" in tribute to James Brown (Photo by M. Caulfield/WireImage)
Michael Caulfield Archive

We already know what you’re thinking. Her? But if Cate Blanchett can be Bob Dylan, why not Xtina as James Brown!? SHE was chosen as the SOLE performer in the James Brown tribute at the 2007 Grammys. Her performance of “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” showed that the singer truly studied and embodied the legend. (Um, did you hear her nail that wail note?)

Plus, she and Mick Jagger (remember he's the producer!) once got quite close during a Rolling Stones performance.

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