Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt are teaming up to adapt The Water Dancer, the best-selling novel by Ta-Nehisi Coates, for MGM.
Winfrey’s Harpo Films and Pitt’s Plan B are producing along with Kamilah Forbes, who previously developed and directed the theatrical event of Coates’ Between the World and Me at the legendary Apollo Theater and Kennedy Center.
Coates adapted his own novel, which was Winfrey’s first selection of her revived Oprah’s Book Club in partnership with Apple and was listed as one of the best books of the year for 2019 by Time, NPR, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Vanity Fair and Esquire, among others.
Set in the pre-Civil War South, the story follows Hiram Walker, born into bondage. He possesses amazing photographic memory but has no memory of his mother. A carriage accident reveals to him a superpower called conduction, an ability to travel large distances and that is triggered by powerful memories of his mother. As he struggles to gain an understanding of this power, he becomes involved with the Underground Railroad and meets historical figures.
“Ta-Nehisi’s debut fiction novel has at its heart, a beautiful character in Hiram Walker, whose personal odyssey weaves the supernatural and spiritual, with the terrible reality of the forced separations endured by enslaved people and their families for centuries,” said MGM’s film group chairman Michael De Luca and MGM’s film group president Pamela Abdy in a statement. “Hiram’s story is one of devotion to those he loves, and the journey he takes to bring them together. All of us at MGM are incredibly honored to join Ta-Nehisi, Kamilah, Plan B and Harpo Films in bringing this film to the screen.”
Said Coates, “I’m honored to be working with Harpo, Plan B and my old friend Kamilah Forbes. We all believe that MGM is the best home for this adaptation and look forward to bringing it to life.”
Coates’ Between the World and Me is currently being adapted at HBO as a special, starring Jharrel Jerome, Wendell Pierce, Yara Shahidi and Mj Rodriguez.
Forbes’ adaptation of Coates’ Between the World and Me moves beyond the stage when it will debut on HBO as a special later in November with Mahershala Ali, Courtney B. Vance, Angela Bassett and others taking part. Forbes is also the executive producer of the Apollo Theater.
Plan B has been involved with making the Oscar-winning dramas 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight as well as If Beale Street Could Talk. The company collaborated with Harpo on Ava DuVernay’s Selma.
Coates is the acclaimed essayist and author of the best-selling books We Were Eight Years in Power, and Between The World and Me, which won the National Book Award in 2015 and has spent over 100 weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. He is also the current author of the Marvel comics The Black Panther and Captain America. Coates is repped by UTA, Watkins Loomis Agency and Del Shaw.