Ahead of its Sundance premiere, “Native Son” has found a new home: Rashid Johnson’s directorial debut has been acquired by HBO Films from A24. Johnson, a renowned visual artist, is making the jump to filmmaking with the assistance of screenwriter Suzan-Lori Parks, whose 2001 play “Topdog/Underdog” won the Pulitzer Prize for drama. The film marks the third adaptation of Richard Wright’s seminal 1940 novel.
Here’s the synopsis, courtesy of Sundance: “Bigger ‘Big’ Thomas, a young African American man, lives with his mother and siblings in Chicago. Half-heartedly involved with a girlfriend, he sports green hair and a punk jacket, smokes weed, and carries a pistol — but rebuffs his buddy’s ‘easy-money’ scheme to knock off a corner store. Full of self-determination, Big accepts a job as the chauffeur for wealthy businessman Will Dalton’s family. Moving into their mansion, he begins driving Dalton’s vehemently progressive daughter, Mary. But his involvement in an accidental death places Big on a collision course with the powerful social forces pitted against him.”
Ashton Sanders (“Moonlight”) will play Bigger, with Margaret Qualley (“The Leftovers”) co-starring as Mary Dalton. Rounding out the cast are Nick Robinson as Jan Erlone, KiKi Layne as Bessie, Elizabeth Marvel as Mrs. Dalton, David Alan Grier as Marty, Sanaa Lathan as Trudy Thomas, and Bill Camp as Henry Dalton.
It was first announced that Johnson would direct “Native Son” in February 2017. A24, which was originally set to distribute the project as well, is also collaborating with HBO on a “2 Dope Queens” project and the upcoming TV series “Euphoria.” Bow + Arrow Entertainment produced and financed the film.
“Native Son” has its world premiere tonight and will air on HBO later this year.