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Wendell Pierce Producing Film Adaptation of Albert French’s Racially-Charged 1930s-Set Novel, ‘Billy’

Wendell Pierce Producing Film Adaptation of Albert French's Racially-Charged 1930s-Set Novel, 'Billy'

Revered veteran actor Wendell Pierce has come on board to produce a film adaptation of author Albert French’s 1995 debut novel, titled “Billy,” which, narrated by an anonymous observer, tells the harrowing and still relevant tale of 10-year-old Billy Lee Turner, a black boy who is convicted of, and executed for murdering a white girl in Banes County, Mississippi in 1937.

From Amazon’s summary of the novel: “Albert French evokes with cinematic vividness the picking fields and town streets; the heat, the dust, the unrelenting sun, the poverty of 1930s Mississippi. High-spirited Billy; his mysterious and passionate mother, Cinder; his friend, Gumpy; and other characters black and white are realized with depth and authority. Told in classic, unrelieved terms yet with remarkable compassion and restraint, their story is an unsentimental and ultimately heart-rending vision of racial injustice. Billy is, quite simply, one of the most powerfully affecting novels to come along in years.”

The film will be written and directed by veteran Martin Davidson, whose credits include 1974’s comedy/drama “The Lord’s of Flatbush”).

“‘Billy’ is a moving story that challenges our humanity and values, as lives are lost and hang in the balance. This is the type of story that I have always desired to produce as a film. It asks, ‘do we value one person’s life over another?’” said Pierce, who will produce alongside Jerry Leider.

“With all the injustice and racial tension we witness every day, it’s not only important that this story be seen, but it’s our responsibility to make certain that we tell it fairly. There are two sides to this story and we are thrilled to have Wendell Pierce standing shoulder to shoulder with us throughout the entire process,” Leider and Davidson said in a joint statement.

The independently-produced project is budgeted at $8 million.

After producing the 2012 Tony Award winning Broadway play, “Clybourne Park,” Pierce, know primarily as an actor, will be making his feature film producing debut with “Billy.”

Read the novel? If so, thoughts. If not, pick up a copy here.

The news was first reported by The Wrap.

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