Since finishing Moonlight (2016) and collecting all those awards, 37-year-old director / writer Barry Jenkins has helmed one of the best episodes of Dear White People for Netflix and is slated to direct a limited series based on Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winning novel The Underground Railroad for Amazon.
Variety, the showbiz daily, announced this week that Jenkins will direct his won adaption of the great gay writer James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk.
Baldwin’s novel, first published in 1974, is about a pregnant 19-year-old Harlem girl, Clementine, and her love for her 22-year-old fiancé, Fonny, who is an artist. After he is falsely accused of raping another woman, Clementine, her family, and their lawyer have to work to prove his innocence.
It is Baldwin’s fifth novel. The title is a reference to the W.C. Handy song Beale Street Blues (1916).
Jenkins has long admired the work and life of Baldwin and his spoken about how he would love to adapt If Beale Street Could Talk for the big screen. He wrote a screenplay for the novel around the same time that he wrote Moonlight. In an interview in Esquire, Barry said:
“Beale Street I wrote in Berlin. Moonlight I wrote in Belgium. I wrote it without the rights because again, in some ways, it was a reaction to putting so much energy in the commercial company. No matter how much you convince yourself, that kind of work purely about making money. I said, Well, I’m going to just do exactly what I want to do. I love this book. I love this play. I’m going to write those things, and I’ll fucking figure it out after. Yeah, I mean, here it is three years later. I still don’t have the rights to the book, as I shouldn’t. Mr. Baldwin’s only been adapted once. This would only be the second time. It’s a big deal. It’s a big responsibility. But because of the success of Moonlight in the marketplace, the estate has seen the film. And I think in that film they can see my intentions with Beale Street, so it’s on the horizon. I don’t have the rights, but it’s on the horizon.”
Baldwin’s sister, Gloria-Karefa-Smart has stated:
“We are delighted to entrust Barry Jenkins with this adaptation. Barry is a sublimely conscious and gifted filmmaker, whose Medicine For Melancholy (2008) impressed us so greatly that we had to work with him.”
If Beale Street Could Talk is slated to start production this fall with Annapurna Pictures. No casting has been announced.