- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
It was nearly 15 years ago when A Journal for Jordan producer Todd Black first read Dana Canedy’s memoir of love, loss and family on which the film is based.
“I loved it, and I went to Sony, where my deal was, and I asked them to buy it for me,” Black told The Hollywood Reporter at the Journal for Jordan premiere in New York earlier this month. “And I went to Denzel Washington, who I have a long relationship with, and I asked him if he would be willing to do it with me, producing it, maybe directing it.”
It took years of script work, interrupted by other projects, and bringing on screenwriter Virgil Williams and star Michael B. Jordan before the film went into production.
Both the film and Canedy’s book of the same name tell of her romance with First Sgt. Charles King and his lessons for his young son, born in 2006, shared via a journal King wrote before he died in Iraq later that same year.
The movie, which hit theaters on Christmas Day, is also the fulfillment of a promise, Black said, that both he and Washington made to Canedy: that the film would get made for her and her son in their lifetime.
To play King, Black says, they considered both Washington, who directed the film, and who Black says “got too old” to play the leading man, and Jordan.
“[Jordan] was really right for it on a lot of levels,” Black told THR. “As an actor, he looks like a soldier; he’s built like a soldier; he’s built like Charles, and he has the acting chops to pull it off emotionally. Audiences love him; women love him. It’s a romance so it’s important we had a romantic lead. So we kind of had all of the right ingredients.”
To turn the book into a screenplay, Williams said he got to know both Canedy and her son and studied King’s journal with Washington, expressing that he wanted to honor the soldier who he calls a “legitimate American hero.”
“Vigilance, reverence and respect,” Williams said were guiding principles in writing the script. “It wasn’t a method, it was more like those were the ingredients in the stew, and we just kind of really were careful and respectful.”
The actors who play Canedy and her family members also worked with her to understand their real-life characters.
Chanté Adams, who plays Canedy in the film, said she first connected with Canedy over the phone due to the COVID-19 pandemic before meeting during the middle of filming.
“Of course I was a nervous wreck but she was so welcoming and so warm, and she’s become like a big sister to me now,” Adams told THR of getting to know her true-life counterpart.
Tamara Tunie, who plays Canedy’s mother, added: “It’s always great when you’re playing a real-life person to have some source material and also to be able to go to the source, which was Dana. We Zoomed when I came on board and chatted about her mom, her dad, their family dynamic, what it was like growing up in a military family. It was very helpful.”
Jalon Christian did his homework to play Canedy’s son.
“I really didn’t meet [Canedy] until the last day of shooting, so prior to that I did some of my own research on her and just what her life had been, and of course, I didn’t really know anything. We spoke on FaceTime very briefly,” he told THR. “Portraying a real person — this is my first film as well — I knew that I could not go into this acting. I had to really be [her son].”
[The following paragraphs contain spoilers from A Journal for Jordan.]
In the film, Adams’ Dana gives Charles a journal while she’s pregnant with their son in a scene that seems to suggest she fears he won’t survive.
For Williams, this moment “of course” reflects this concern.
“I think that her fear is two-fold. She is afraid of experiencing the trauma that her mother experienced on one hand, and I think she knows that soldiers go fight wars. I think she knows this being the daughter of a soldier. I think the better part of her misgivings are because she knows that he might not be around,” he said. “For me that’s part of what makes the story so beautiful, because her courage is showcased in these moments and it’s a different kind of courage than we see in movies usually.”
In the film, Adams’ Dana and her son visit Charles’ grave at Arlington National Cemetery, but a note at the end of the film says that location was chosen for dramatic effect, as King is actually buried in Ohio.
As for why they made that change, Williams said, “Charles wanted to be buried at Arlington. That’s where he wanted to be buried. His family wanted him closer. So he’s interred closer to them. And Arlington is Arlington. In making this film, we also wanted to make it for all of the soldiers and all of the families who have sacrificed and paid that price. And Arlington is so symbolic of that. We had the support of the military, so just being allowed to film at Arlington was an honor. I think it would have been foolish to pass that up.”
Sony has given the drama an exclusive theatrical release at a time when the pandemic has accelerated the shift to streaming, and Black — who spoke to THR at the premiere on Dec. 9, before the recent omicron surge — was “thrilled” the film could be seen on the big screen.
“I think it’s going to give people a chance to go out on Christmas Day and afterward to go to a theater safely and watch a love story,” he said. “There’s not a lot of love stories that we make anymore. I’m so happy Sony said yes to that. I think it’s a theatrical experience to sit with a lot of other people in the room and cry and laugh and feel something, and you feel a lot in this movie. So I’m really thrilled that it’s a movie movie.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day
Behind The Screen