barry jenkins's 'moonlight' follow-up is a james baldwin adaptation

Jenkins wrote the movie version of 'If Beale Street Could Talk' before even attempting to secure the rights to it.

by Hannah Ongley
10 July 2017, 9:54pm

It's not shocking that Barry Jenkins is a big fan of James Baldwin. But it is pretty hardcore that, during a summer sojourn in Western Europe to write his Oscar-winning film Moonlight, Jenkins somehow found time to whip up an adaptation of Baldwin's stunning 13th novel If Beale Street Could Talk — and did it despite not actually having the rights to the book. Years later, the Baldwin Estate has finally granted those rights, and Jenkins's take on the 70s Harlem love story is 100% happening, Variety reports. 

"I said, 'Well, I'm going to just do exactly what I want to do. I love [If Beale Street Could Talk]. I love [In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue]. I'm going to write those things, and I'll fucking figure it out after,'" Jenkins casually revealed to Esquire in January about his potentially fruitless side hustle. "Yeah, I mean, here it is three years later. I still don't have the rights to the book, as I shouldn't," he continued. And why shouldn't a black cinema mastermind have those rights? Well, as Jenkins mentioned, Baldwin has only been adapted once. "This would only be the second time," he said. "It's a big deal. It's a big responsibility."

Beale Street revolves around 19-year-old Tish, who falls in love and gets pregnant to a young sculptor. When her lover is accused of a crime he didn't commit, Tish sets out to prove his innocence. This will be Jenkins's first feature film since Moonlight, though he hasn't been spending the post-Oscars period sipping daiquiris and repeat-watching that jaw-dropping award show moment on DVR. Jenkins is also adapting Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad for an Amazon mini-series, and less expectedly but no less importantly, recently judged a DIY Elton John music video contest. Production on his Baldwin adaptation is expected to start in October. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Photography Stephane Cardinale - Corbis via Getty

Barry Jenkins
James Baldwin
beale street
if beale street could talk