Director Barry Jenkins to follow Moonlight with a James Baldwin work

Director of Moonlight Barry Jenkins holds Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.
Director of Moonlight Barry Jenkins holds Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK (NYTimes) - The writer and director Barry Jenkins, whose film Moonlight won the Academy Award for best picture this year, has his next screen project lined up: An adaptation of James Baldwin's novel If Beale Street Could Talk.

Jenkins has been circling the Baldwin story for years, telling Esquire that he wrote the script for Beale Street in 2013 in Berlin at the same time he was developing Moonlight. He didn't have the commercial rights to Baldwin's work then but decided to press ahead anyway with the writing.

Baldwin's novel, published in 1974, traces the story of two characters named Tish and Fonny living in Harlem, New York. Fonny is falsely accused of rape and incarcerated; Tish then learns that she is pregnant with Fonny's child. Joyce Carol Oates, reviewing the book for the Times, praised it as "a quite moving and very traditional celebration of love." She wrote,

"It is so vividly human and so obviously based upon reality, that it strikes us as timeless." Jenkins, in a statement released Monday, said: "To translate the power of Tish and Fonny's love to the screen in Baldwin's image is a dream I've long held dear. Working alongside the Baldwin Estate, I'm excited to finally make that dream come true."

Jenkins has been busy since the Oscars, when he and Tarell Alvin McCraney also won the award for best adapted screenplay for Moonlight. Jenkins is also working on a television series adaptation of Colson Whitehead's National Book Award-winning novel The Underground Railroad. Jenkins will write and direct the series for Amazon.

If Beale Street Could Talk is slated to start production in October with Annapurna Pictures, in partnership with Pastel and Plan B. Variety first reported details about the project.