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Octavia Spencer In Final Negotiations to Play God in Film Adaptation of ‘The Shack’

Octavia Spencer In Final Negotiations to Play God in Film Adaptation of 'The Shack'

Last we updated you on this project, a year ago, Idris Elba and Oprah Winfrey were reportedly offered lead roles in Forest Whitaker’s adaptation of the best-selling novel “The Shack,” which Whitaker was to both direct and star in.

Today, Variety is reporting that Octavia Spencer is in final negotiations to star in the film, playing God, with Stuart Hazeldine directing, and production set to start this spring.

Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate picked up film adaptation rights to William Paul Young’s novel “The Shack,” 2 years ago, which is to be to be adapted to script by John Fusco, produced by Gill Netter and Brad Cummings. 

The story follows a character named Mackenzie Allen Philips who, after suffering a devastating personal tragedy, receives a mysterious note from God in his mailbox inviting him to a place called The Shack. He visits the shack where he actually does meet God, which begins a life-transforming journey of redemption. 

The book was published in 2007 and went on to become a global bestseller, selling over 18 million copies in 39 languages.

Long-time readers of this blog will remember that, way back in 2008, I profiled the novel, after I stumbled across a write-up for it, while skimming through archived pages of the New York Times online. It included the following sentence: “Mr. Nowak, a maintenance worker near Yakima, Wash., first bought a copy of “The Shack,” a slim paperback novel by an unknown author about a grieving father who meets God in the form of a jolly African American woman, at a Borders bookstore in March…”

Needless to say, I kept reading.

A longer breakdown of the book, which gives a little more about its story, via its sales page on Amazon, describes “The Shack” as: “… a Christian-themed novel about a character by the name of Mackenzie Allen Philips, whose youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and may have been brutally murdered. Four years later, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God (the above-mentioned jolly African American woman), inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack’s world forever. You’ll want everyone you know to read this book!”

The author, William P. Young, a 55-year old white man by the way, said in the New York Times article, he chose to make God an African American woman because he wanted to alter religious preconceptions, stating, “It was just a way of saying: ‘You know what? I don’t believe that God is Gandalf with an attitude, or Zeus who wants to blast you with any imperfection that you exhibit.’”

The article also said, even people initially put off by the book’s characterization of God as a black woman, were won over!

After reading the entire piece, I thought about how many times I’d seen or heard God portrayed as an African American woman in any previous films, but I couldn’t immediately think of any.

Although while I was intrigued by the author’s choice to have God be a black woman, I’m not really the target audience for religious film material, so I haven’t been in any rush to read it. 

You can pick up a copy here.

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