July 8, 2013
Steven Spielberg in talks to produce The Grapes of Wrath movie
by Nick Davies
Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of John Steinbeck’s classic novel The Grapes of Wrath, and Mike Fleming, Jr. reports for Deadline that the rights to adapt the book into a new film to mark the occasion have become something of a hot commodity. He writes that Steven Spielberg has thrown his hat into the ring to be involved in the project in some capacity.
Steinbeck’s book follows the Joad family in their cross-country trek to escape the Dust Bowl for sunny, fertile California, and was adapted into a film in 1940 by director John Ford, an effort that won him an Academy Award, as well as a screenplay nomination for the adaptation by Nunnally Jackson. The rights to do a second version are somewhat complicated, though, by the fact that Fox, which made the original film, still retains the foreign rights to an adaptation, while the domestic rights have reverted to the Steinbeck estate.
The estate is in talks with film studio DreamWorks to make a new adaptation, and Fleming says there were reports Spielberg “swooped in to take it off the table over other bidders.” He also mentions rumors that Spielberg, who lists Ford as one of his main directorial influences, was looking to direct the Grapes of Wrath adaptation, but DreamWorks “said definitively that he is only interested in producing the picture, and will absolutely not direct it.”
Spielberg does seem like a natural fit for a big, sweeping historical & literary saga, but if he is out of the picture (pun intended) as director, the question remains of who would take the reins of this adaptation. Perhaps Baz Luhrmann would like to turn it into a musical, complete with glitter and fireworks as the Joads abandon their Oklahoma home. Or Tim Burton could bring in Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham-Carter to play Tom and Ma Joad, respectively, in overly theatrical makeup and wigs. Maybe we’ll get to see the Wes Anderson rendition, with every shot of Route 66 looking like it went through an Instagram filter; or the Quentin Tarantino retelling of the story from Rose of Sharon’s perspective as she sets out to take revenge against Connie Rivers. Joel and Ethan Coen might want to take a stab at it, and that…that would probably turn out really well. Count me in as a vote for a Coen brothers adaptation.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.