Lee Daniels seems to be taking his time in choosing a followup to last year’s leftfield Oscar contender, “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” For a while, it looked like all things were go on the civil rights drama “Selma.” It had a killer cast lined up that included Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, David Oyelowo, Ray Winstone, Robert De Niro and Cedric the Entertainer but it couldn’t manage to get the financing together, as the film got further and further pushed back until now, it appears to be off the map altogether. Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, Daniels signed on this summer to direct “The Butler,” a film based on the true story of White House servant Eugene Allen who worked in the most important house in the land for 34 years and eight presidents, most crucially, during the years when segregation was slowly eliminated and civil rights came to the fore (sensing a theme yet?). The project is still in development and now another one has caught Daniels’ eye.
Deadline reports that the director is in early conversations to develop a feature film adaptation of the Broadway musical (which is now wrapping its run) “The Scottsboro Boys.” Framed as a minstrel show, the production tells the now famous story of nine black boys who were accused of raping two white women and found themselves rushed into trials in Scottsboro, Alabama where they were barely given legal representation. The boys ended up facing multiple trials as they tried to find a fair chance — in one instance, one of the women admitted she had made up her accusations and the boys were still found guilty.
It’s certainly seems to fit the current m.o. of projects Daniels is intrigued by — those that touch upon the changing tide of civil rights for African Americans — but we’re a little concerned about him as a director. While the performances were great, we had major issues with Daniels’ over-the-top direction and the themes of these projects seem to demand a more subtle hand. That said, a musical approach could actually be right in the sweet spot for Daniels skills and we’d definitely be intrigued to see how his uh, style, would work within that milieu.
As always it’s very early days and hell, he may not even end up doing it, but yet another project on Daniels’ radar as he takes his time to make his followup to “Precious.”