How Did Natchez Land The New James Brown Movie? A Friendly Neighbor

By Carol Cowan on May 15, 2014 at 6:00 am EST
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PHOTO CREDIT: Photo courtesy of T.G. McCary

David Paradise is modest about the many acts of service and generosity he bestows on his community. But there’s no denying that Natchez, Miss., just wouldn’t be the same without him. And it definitely wouldn’t have been the location for filming the $30 million James Brown biopic Get On Up, had Paradise not gotten up and gotten involved.

Paradise, a successful businessman who owns 83 restaurants operating across seven states, went up the road one day to welcome a new neighbor who was restoring a historic home near Paradise’s own. Turns out that neighbor was Tate Taylor, director of Academy-Award winning film The Help. Taylor mentioned that he was making a new movie and would like to film in Natchez, but he faced some obstacles.

“I said, ‘Well, let me help you. Tell me what the obstacles are, and let’s see what we can do about overcoming them.’ So, I introduced him to the local movers and shakers, set up the meetings and tried to find ways to make it easy for him to bring that movie,” Paradise recalls. “And it worked out. It was very good for our economy.”

Taylor wants to make more movies in Natchez, says Mayor Butch Brown, who credits Paradise with clinching the deal for Get On Up. “David had the foresight and the wisdom to bring Tate Taylor up here and say, ‘Let us have a try,’” Brown says. “And he did, and we did. Because of David’s efforts and the value and uniqueness of the movie, we’re getting national and international press every day now.”

A lifelong resident of Natchez, Paradise earned his reputation as the city’s go-to guy long before the movie moguls moved in. He decided early on that if he ever got the chance to give back to the community that embraced his widowed mother and her five young children, he would. “So when the opportunity arises and I have something to contribute, I certainly try and do it,” he says.

Paradise is a perennial supporter of the children’s outreach program of the renowned Natchez Festival of Music, which reaches more than 10,000 children in area schools. He serves on the advisory board of the Natchez Literary and Cinema Celebration. He’s been active in the Historic Natchez Foundation and preservation efforts for many years. He also is a cornerstone of the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society, serving on its board and playing a major role in getting a new $1 million animal shelter built in 2014.

“The Humane Society is an organization here in Natchez that has worked tirelessly to provide services for unwanted and stray animals in the community, and they have done so with very little resources and mostly volunteer help. The time has come now for the shelter to be improved. It was one of those opportunities where someone called on me to help, and I was glad to do it,” Paradise says.

No wonder the Natchez Democrat named Paradise its 2014 Citizen of the Year.

“He is what you call a very good citizen,” Mayor Brown says. “A hometown hero.”

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