Once Ray Charles had a successful biopic, with Taylor Hackford's Ray, there was a shortlist of notable African-American musical pioneers as potential follow-ups. For several years it appeared that Jimi Hendrix would be the next, with OutKast rapper and actor Andre Benjamin (Be Cool, Four Brothers) slated to portray the U.S. Army paratrooper turned guitar wizard. Now, however, it appears that an equally famous musician, who briefly had Hendrix in his band, will go before the cameras first. James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, will be the subject of a biopic directed by Tate Taylor (The Help). Brown, who passed away in 2006, was associated with the film before his death, which should bring the essential rights to use his music. As the personification of 'Papa's Got a Brand New Bag' and 'Soul Power', Taylor has cast Chadwick Boseman, who recently played another famous African-American who broke the colour barrier, baseball legend Jackie Robinson in 42. Supporting roles for The Help stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are also being locked in.
Tony Jaa jumps aboard car franchise
The best thing about the Fast & Furious franchise is the multi-cultural casting – they're the rare Hollywood production where the blonde white guy (Paul Walker) is the exception rather than the norm. Australian director James Wan (Saw, The Conjuring) takes over from Justin Lin for the seventh installment of the vehicular mayhem franchise, due next year, and while British actor Jason Statham (The Transporter and The Expendables series) has already signed on as the villain opposite Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Dwayne Johnson, the film has now added Thai martial arts legend Tony Jaa (the Ong Bak movies) to the sprawling cast.
Louder Than Bombs, the first English-language feature from Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st) has been cancelled due to financing difficulties, despite a cast that includes Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Isabelle Huppert (Amour, Tip Top), and Gabriel Byrne (Miller's Crossing); Matt Damon has a small supporting role in Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, joining Matthew McConaughey, Jessica Chastain and Anne Hathaway on the science-fiction epic for a fortnight's shooting; Marvel Comics and Disney is currently building the Iron Man, Thor and Captain America films towards a second Avengers assembly, and James Spader will play (or at least voice) the sentient robot supervillain Ultron in Joss Whedon's 2015 blockbuster The Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Oz crime film cuts loose
Australian filmmaker Tony Ayres, the director of Walking on Water and The Home Song Stories, has been a productive force in television over the last few years, undertaking various behind the camera roles in The Slap and Underground: The Julian Assange Story, but he's now preparing his next feature film. Cut Snake is a psychological crime drama set in 1973 Australia, about a just released prison inmate who moves cities and rebuilds his life only to have a former acquaintance bring back the past and threaten his new relationship. Alex Russell (Chronicle, Bait) will play the lead role, with the in-demand Sullivan Staple (Animal Kingdom, the forthcoming 300: Rise of an Empire) as his unwelcome guest and Jessica De Gouw (These Final Hours, television's Arrow) as the woman he tries to protect from his own history.