The darkest chapter in American history has always been ripe for the Hollywood treatment, but after Steve McQueen’s searing 12 Years A Slave took Best Picture at the Oscars earlier this year, it seems clearer than ever that there’s still a large appetite for movies about slavery. Luckily, the next star-studded movie about the subject won’t be quite as painful to watch as 12 Years A Slave. Deadline is reporting that Liev Schreiber and Jaden Smith have signed on to star in an adaptation of James McBride’s satirical slavery novel The Good Lord Bird.
McBride’s novel, which won him the 2013 National Book Award, centers on a cross-dressing slave named Little Onion (Smith), a young boy mistaken for a girl when rescued from his master by famed abolitionist John Brown (Schreiber). Together, they set out on a journey across the country, encountering individuals like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass in their efforts to gain supporters on their quest to liberate slaves, culminating in the infamous bloodbath at Harpers Ferry. The novel drew comparisons to Mark Twain’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which similarly blended emotionally charged storytelling with biting satire. McBride (pictured above), whose other works include Miracle at St. Anna and Red Hook Summer, will be serving as a producer on the adaptation.
Schreiber, recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his title role in the Showtime series Ray Donovan, is known for playing intense, hot-tempered characters, so he’s definitely an interesting choice to take on the role of Brown. It won’t be Schreiber’s first historical drama, either, as the actor memorably played Orson Welles in HBO flick RKO 281 and a Jewish resistance fighter in WWII pic Defiance.
Smith, coming off box office bomb After Earth, is smartly taking steps to escape his father’s shadow and establish himself as a serious actor. Last week, The Karate Kid 2 gained Breck Eisner as a director, so that project will likely get off the ground before The Good Lord Bird, but it’s still nice to see that Smith is aiming to branch out from the young age demographic that put him on the map.
We’ll keep you posted as The Good Lord Bird gets closer to entering production.