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A version of this story first appeared in the Feb. 19 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Aaron Sorkin and Scott Rudin are teaming up to bring Harper Lee’s iconic novel To Kill a Mockingbird to the stage. The new theatrical production written by Sorkin and produced by Rudin is being prepped for the 2017-18 Broadway season, with Tony winner Bartlett Sher set to direct.
This is not the first collaboration between the Oscar-winning screenwriter and the megaproducer. Sorkin and Rudin previously collaborated on 2010’s The Social Network and last year’s Steve Jobs.
Along with his Hollywood career, Rudin has been a longtime theater producer, having worked on A Raisin in the Sun, The Book of Mormon and This Is Our Youth. He is producing Arthur Miller’s The Crucible for the current Broadway season.
Sorkin spent his early career as a playwright, having written A Few Good Men in 1989, which he later adapted into the Oscar-winning movie. The Farnsworth Project and Making Movies are among his other stage projects.
Rudin spent two years pursuing the rights to the novel and will be responsible for bringing one of the great books of American literature to the theatergoing masses The stage production of To Kill a Mockingbird has no relation to the film rights associated with the book.
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and is one of the most beloved novels of all time. The Alabama-set story takes place in the mid-1930s and centers on 10-year-old Scout Finch, her widowed lawyer father Atticus, their reclusive neighbor Boo Radley and the trial of Tom, an African-American man (falsely) accused of raping a white woman. The 1962 film version starring Gregory Peck as Atticus, Mary Badham as Scout and a young Robert Duvall as Boo Radley is also considered a classic, having been nominated for eight Academy Awards (including best picture) and winning three (including best actor for Peck).
Go Set a Watchman, a pseudo-sequel, was published in July 2015. Though the story is set in the 1950s, some 20 years after Mockingbird, the book was actually written beforehand. Despite mixed reviews and questions about whether Lee, now 89, wanted the manuscript to be published, Watchman was a huge best-seller. It was HarperCollins’ fastest-selling book of all time, with first-week sales topping 1.1 million copies.
A stage version of Mockingbird by Christopher Sergel debuted in 1991 and has played every May in Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, since then. Developed mainly for school productions, Sergel’s play has also found favor with regional theater groups in the U.S. and the U.K. The Dramatic Publish Company, which owns the rights to Sergel’s play, has allowed the Monroe County Heritage Museum to put on the play for the past 25 years. This year the show will be run by a new not-for-profit as opposed to the museum, according to a post on Dramatic Publishing’s Facebook page.
The museum has previously reported $200,000 in ticket sales to the show. Museum officials say they will struggle financially without its biggest fund-raiser.
Relations between the museum and Lee have suffered since 2013, when a trademark dispute over souvenirs that the museum was selling ended up in court. The case was settled last year. Dramatic Publishing did not release an explanation for the change, but the Rudin production may have had something to do with this sudden switch.
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