The legendary Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson, may finally get his wish. Well, he past away back in 2005, so he’s not here to see it come into fruition, but his award-winning play Fences may finally be turned into a Hollywood film.
Fences is a 1983 play set in the 1950s, which explores the evolving African-American experience and examines race relations, among other themes. It focuses on Troy, a 53-year-old head of household who struggles with providing for his family and with his obsession with cheating death. The play won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play(Wiki).
The play, was no doubt successful in its time, winning two of the most prestige accolades, but the film adaptation for Fences stalled for 25 years. What was the reason for the long delay?
Wilson insisted to Paramount (the studio who bought the rights) that the director for Fences be black. The playwright publicly expressed his frustration about black directors at the time saying that, “whites have set themselves up as custodians of our experience.” Paramount disputed Wilson over the request, stating that they wanted “the best director for the job.” Eddie Murphy, who was originally attached to star in and co-produce Fences, also told Wilson that he was going to hire the best man for the job and not someone because of their race.
The playwright’s request wasn’t part of the deal with Paramount so the studio could have still went on to make the film, but with Wilson lobbying against it, they expressed that it would be a bad idea to continue.
Fast forward to 2012, in a recent interview with Empire, Denzel Washington mentioned that he may direct the film adaption. The A-list actor was approached to helm the film in the past, but he refused, pledging that he would have to star in the play on Broadway first. So after Washington wish was met in 2010, where he and Viola Davis both also received the highest honor in the Tony award for their work, he is finally ready to take on the directing job.
Washington told Empire on his UK press tour, that not only is he ready to direct Fences, but he brought the screenplay with him so he can start the preliminary work. This clearly means Fences may hit theaters soon. What the heck, this is Denzel Washington we’re talking about and he’s black. If he stars in the film, Paramount shouldn’t have any objection, being that he’s a big time actor and a Hollywood star. More details coming soon…