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Aunjanue Ellis to Star in Film Adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s ‘The Nickel Boys’ for MGM’s Orion Pictures

Oscar nominee RaMell Ross ("Hale County This Morning, This Evening") will direct and co-write the screenplay

Aunjanue Ellis The Nickel Boys

Photo by Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images

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“King Richard” star Aunjanue Ellis is set to star in an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Nickel Boys” being set up at MGM’s Orion Pictures.

The studio has tapped RaMell Ross, an Oscar nominee for the documentary “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” to direct the film, and Ross also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Josyln Barnes (“Zama,” “Memoria”).

Ellis will lead the cast alongside up-and-coming actors Ethan Herisse (“When They See Us”) and Brandon Wilson (“The Way Back”), who will anchor and lead the film’s young cast. Hamish Linklater (“The Big Short”) and Fred Hechinger (“The Woman in the Window,” “The White Lotus”) will also co-star.

“The Nickel Boys” is Whitehead’s follow-up to his other Pulitzer winner, “The Underground Railroad.” Though the book is fiction, it’s based on the real story of a Florida reform school that, over 111 years, hid decades of abuse against its residents and even had bodies secretly buried on its campus. Alternating between 1960s Tallahassee and the 2010s, the story follows Elwood Curtis, a Black man who survived the school and is now determined to give his testimony about what happened there following a university investigation.

Plan B Entertainment, Anonymous Content and Joslyn Barnes of Louverture Films are producing “The Nickel Boys,” and Whitehead serves as an executive producer.

“It is an honor to be working with such talented people and trusted with such an incredibly written story, with historical roots. I’m constantly impressed by the passion and creativity of the collection of people moving this project forward,” Ross said in a statement.

“RaMell is a one of the most impactful visual artists of our time, with a singular voice and perspective. With this piece, he is inviting us to see a world enveloped in both beauty and neglect through a unique lens on the Black experience that has yet to be captured in cinema. Along with our partners at Plan B, Anonymous Content and Joslyn Barnes, we are incredibly proud to have the opportunity to work alongside these incredible artists to bring ‘The Nickel Boys’ to the screen,” Alana Mayo, president of Orion Pictures, said in a statement.

Plan B is partnering with Whitehead for the second time after previously adapting “The Underground Railroad” as a series for Amazon Prime Video. And MGM’s Orion is fresh off the release of “Till,” a biopic about the mother of Emmett Till.

Ellis was Oscar-nominated for her work in “King Richard” as the mother of Venus and Serena Williams. She’ll next be seen in the musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” as well as the comedy “The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat.”

Ellis is represented by UTA and TMT Entertainment Group. Herisse is represented by Clear Talent Group and Stagecoach Entertainment. Wilson is represented by A3 Artists Agency and Seven Summits Pictures & Management. Linklater is represented by CAA, Untitled Entertainment and Tara Kole at Johnson, Shapiro, Slewett & Kole. Hechinger is represented by A3 Artists Agency, Brillstein Entertainment Partners, and attorney Ryan LeVine.

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