After years of refusal, Nelle Harper Lee has agreed to a Broadway adaptation of her iconic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. That decision comes on the heels of her reversing an earlier stance that she would never publish another book and agreeing to last year’s publication of Go Set A Watchman.
Rights to Mockingbird have been acquired by well-known Hollywood producer Scott Rudin. He has hired Aaron Sorkin to write the screenplay, with plans for it to debut in the 2017-18 season. The two have worked together on many projects in the past, including the films Steve Jobs and The Social Network.
Lee’s literary agent Andrew Nurnberg, quoted in the New York Times story says, “While [Lee] had always had misgivings about anyone who might want to bring To Kill a Mockingbird to Broadway — and there have been many approaches over the years — she finally decided that [Ridley] Scott would be the right person to embrace this,” Nurnberg said.
This is not the first stage adaptation of the book. A 1991 play by Christopher Sergel has been produced by regional theaters, annually in Lee’s hometown and recently in London. Although it is true to the book, critics have accused that version of being plodding and static.
Horton Foote’s adaptation for the screen won an Oscar and was embraced by Lee. According to an interview with Foote. “The studio asked Harper Lee to do the script, and she didn’t feel she knew enough about dramatic form. I was her choice.”
How might Sorkin handle the material differently? Sorkin has a distinctive style, characterized by the NYT as “machine-gun spray of dialogue.”
While he tells the NYT that he feels resposibility to the many fans of the book, he adds, “You can’t just wrap the original in Bubble Wrap and move it as gently as you can to the stage. It’s blasphemous to say it, but at some point, I have to take over.”