Dan Aykroyd talks about ‘Get On Up’ and his love of James Brown

get on up
Photo Courtesy: Universal Pictures

Actor Dan Aykroyd has had a long affinity for soul music. He and John Belushi infamously created “The Blues Brothers” characters on “Saturday Night Live,” a novelty act that was based on the onstage personas of ’60s soul stars Sam & Dave, and many of the films that he’s starred in feature a tremendous amount of classic soul music; from the soul tribute Blues Brothers film, to Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” in 1988’s The Great Outdoors to Jackie Wilson’s “Higher & Higher” in 1989’s Ghostbusters II.

Aykroyd co-stars in the upcoming James Brown biopic Get On Up and the famed SNL alum and Hollywood star shared his enthusiasm for the project and revealed that, in playing Brown’s longtime manager and friend Ben Bart, Aykroyd developed a strong bond with the film’s star, Chadwick Boseman.

“We drove out to some mansion [in Mississippi],” Aykroyd shared, and the road trip was one of many moments the two men enjoyed together. “You get on a set and you’re in it together. You face yourself and you’re there with the director in the common environment of creativity. You do the work. But it’s not hard to love Chad. He’s just an enormously likable and extremely talented man. My affection in real life for him translates into the movie. I think you can see it. Because Pop really loved James Brown. They had a great friendship.”

The actor also had high praise for Tate Taylor, the film’s director.

“I took with me the wisdom, the advice, the gentle urges and the bandwidth tuning of our director,” Aykroyd explained. “I will remember how he directed me in this movie, and it will help me with lesser talents as I go forward.”

Aykroyd also recalled his first memory of James Brown–going back to when he was a young man living in Canada and saw “Mr. Dynamite” performing live and direct.

“1968. Montreal, Canada. The building is gone now, but it was called the Esquire Show Bar,” he recalled. “You sat at the bar and the performers danced along the bar. So when Danny Ray came out and they dropped the cape on James Brown and he did ‘Please, Please, Please,’ that was a seminal moment for myself and my six friends who’d squeezed into our friend’s mother’s Mustang and come down from Ottawa to see this show.”

“The horns, the rhythm, [guitarist] Jimmy Nolen, [saxophonist] Maceo [Parker]–everybody that was in the band then,” Aykroyd added. “Early on, I loved him.”

As an aside, Aykroyd also recalled his fondest memory of working with the Godfather of Soul on The Blues Brothers film, in which James Brown had a classic cameo as a fiery Baptist minister.

“He was great!” Aykroyd declared, before adding with a chuckle, “He didn’t take any s–t off of [director John] Landis.”

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