EXCLUSIVE: 'Precious' Director Lee Daniels to Helm 'Anna in the Tropics'

Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images

MILAN, ITALY - NOVEMBER 24:  Director Lee Daniels attends the "Precious" photocall held at Terrazza Martini on November 24, 2010 in Milan, Italy.

Filmmaker will develop the big-screen adaptation of Nilo Cruz's Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway play.

Precious director Lee Daniels has signed on to develop and direct Anna in the Tropics, a film adaptation of Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer and Steinberg Prize-winning Broadway play being produced by John Torres Martinez and Joe Lamy of Austin-based Mankind Entertainment.

The story is set in 1920s Tampa, then the seat of cigar-making industry and featured an imported Cuban tradition of lectors reading to workers. Inspired by Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, Tropics centers on a family of cigar rollers whose lives are changed by the power of literature.

The play was nominated for two Tonys and was translated and produced for audiences from Australia and China to Spain, Germany and France.

WME Global is packaging the project and Daniels, whose deal was made by WME before he jumped to CAA, will develop the script with the Cuban-born Cruz while he also works on his civil rights project Selma.

“I always saw it as a film,” says Paradigm-repped Cruz. “Even though I wrote is as a play, I just think it has endless possibilities as a film. The play itself is full of images and I want to open it up to the world film offers.”

Cruz will meet with Daniels in January to begin tackling the project, and sees a lot of common ground between the two artists. “I loved his use of fantasy and quotidian life in Precious. It was a wonderful combination. I think my piece also deals with similar level of reality,” says Cruz.

Mankind, which aims to develop and package specialty films, is also developing Castro’s Daughter, written by Bobby Moresco (Crash).