NEW YORK, July 29 (Reuters) - At first Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer thought she was seeing early concert footage of James Brown but then was told it was a screen test by Chadwick Boseman to play the "Godfather of Soul" in the new biopic "Get On Up."

30 Jul 2014 - 3:58 AM  UPDATED 1 Aug 2014 - 9:35 AM

From the gliding, intricate footwork to the hunched
shoulders and fluid movements, Boseman had nailed Brown's
singular mannerisms and raspy voice.

"It was just him from the back, and then from the side, and
it was all in silhouette with the hair. I could not believe it,
and he had only been learning the dance for three days," said
Spencer, 44, who plays Brown's no-nonsense, knife-wielding Aunt
Honey in the film, which opens in U.S. theaters on Friday.

Spencer, the 2012 Academy Award winner for "The Help," said
Boseman immersed himself in the role of the three-time Grammy
winner, who died on Christmas Day in 2006 at the age of 73.

"Things happen when they are supposed to. This was supposed
to be Chadwick Boseman's role," Spencer said.

"Get On Up" follows the man and his music in flashbacks
from his impoverished early years in a shack in rural South
Carolina, to living in a brothel run by Aunt Honey and singing
in a local church, to his early career performing with the
Famous Flames and later international stardom.

Behind the glitzy costumes, pompadours and showman's
bravura, the film, produced by Mick Jagger and Brian Grazer,
shows Brown as an industrious teen scrounging a living, a
troubled, perfectionist musician, an egotistical performer and a
shrewd businessman.


Bozeman, 32, is no stranger to playing iconic figures. In a
break-out role, he portrayed black baseball pioneer Jackie
Robinson in the 2013 biopic "42," but bringing one of the most
influential figures in popular music to the big screen was a

"I was scared of it. There was no part of it that was
straightforward and easy," said Boseman, who like Brown, hails
from South Carolina.

Mastering the dance moves and getting past the caricatures
of Brown, famously parodied by Eddie Murphy on the comedy sketch
show "Saturday Night Live," posed the biggest challenges.

Boseman worked with a choreographer, spent time in the South
to get into the part and spoke to Brown's family to capture the
essence of the man.

For Jagger, finding an actor who could dance and depict
Brown's charisma with the audience in the film, which was
directed by Tate Taylor ("The Help") was important.

Jagger and the Rolling Stones played on the same bill with
Brown in 1964 at a live concert in California. As a performer
influenced by him, Jagger wanted to find just the right actor to
play Brown.

"For musicians and for listeners and dancers alike I think
he has made this huge contribution, this lasting contribution
which goes on. I think this movie does, hopefully, that legacy
justice," said Jagger.

Judging from early reviews, the filmmakers got it right with

"It's that rare musician's biography with a deep feel for
the music. And in Chadwick Boseman, it has a galvanic core, a
performance that transcends impersonation and reverberates long
after the screen goes dark," said the Hollywood Reporter.

Trade magazine Variety said whatever the film's
shortcomings, "one thing that's faultless is its star, Chadwick
Boseman, who plays Brown from age 16 to 60 with a dexterity and
invention worthy of his subject."

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Steve Orlofsky)