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Exclusive: Samuel L. Jackson Says Rodrigo Garcia Will Direct Him In 'Ptolemy Grey' Adaptation

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by Tambay A. Obenson
December 17, 2012 4:49 PM
2 Comments
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Samuel Jackson/Ptolemy Grey

Yesterday was Django Unchained press day here in NYC, with the film's key cast and crew on-hand to talk to press about the film, and whatever else each member of the media had on their individual lists of topics to address.

During my one-on-one session with the inimitable, uproarious Samuel L. Jackson in his suite, as he lounged back on a comfortable-looking couch, with his feet up on a nearby ottoman, while smoking what I believe was a cigar, in addition to a few questions about his involvement in Django, I of course asked him several questions about other projects of his that have been announced, and others that have not.

One of those that we've previously mentioned on this site is his planned adaptation of  Walter Mosley's The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey - a project that really hasn't been officially announced, but we learned about via an interview Mosley gave last fall (2011), when he was quoted as saying that Jackson had "expressed interest" in adapting the novel.

Rodrigo Garcia

Nothing concrete has been reported since then that we're aware of, in terms of whether it's gone beyond just "expressed interest" to become a project that's a definite go.

In my interview with Samuel L. Jackson, he said that he definitely has the rights to the novel, and it's a film project that he sees happening within the next year or two. In addition to that, as we talked about him playing a different kind of character than he usually does in Rodrigo Garcia's drama Mother And Child, Jackson added that Rodrigo Garcia is indeed also going to direct him in Ptolemy Grey, when that launches in the next 12 to 24 months.

The Last Days Of Ptolemy Grey story goes...

When we first meet 90-plus-year-old Ptolemy Grey, the old black man, he's holed up in his filthy L.A. apartment, where he's lost his wife years before and where his mind seems to be falling apart right in front of us. Grey is suffering from a huge jumble of thoughts about his parents, about the lynching of his best friend, about a battle he fought in World War II, about his wife dying in his arms. It doesn't matter that he's hoarding a stash of gold under the floorboards. His life becomes poorer and poorer by the day. And then along comes a young woman, a family friend named Robyn, and everything changes. Robyn gives him the respect and affection he's lacked since the distant demise of his wife. Just as important, she arranges an appointment with a local doctor, a cross between friendly Dr. Mehmet Oz and fervid Dr. Faustus, who invites him to join a dangerous but hopeful experiment that will restore his memory but decrease the days of his life. Old Ptolemy signs on... and the adventure begins. Everything changes for Ptolemy in ways as shocking and unanticipated as they are poignant and profound. [The novel] fuses family, fable, science fiction and sociology, that contains echoes of Katherine Anne Porter and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but mainly stamped with the distinctive intensity of the prolific Walter Mosley.

It may seem like a somewhat unusual choice for Rodrigo Garcia, who's maybe more well-known for his small-scale, intimate portraits of women in contemporary society, but, looking over his resume (from directing episodes of TV dramas like The Sopranos, Carnivàle, Six Feet Under, and more, to big screen features like Nine Lives, to his latest film, Albert Nobbs, a period piece set in Dublin), I'd say he's qualified for the job.

Samuel didn't reveal anymore about the project - like other casting, etc. But he was clearly very excited about it.

He did also add that he would soon be heading to South Africa to star in a Japanese film called Kite, which will be directed by David R. Ellis - the same dude who directed Jackson in Snakes On A Plane.

Initially announced last fall, Kite is a live action remake of the Japanese anime film of the same name, by Yasuomi Umetsu, which was released in 1998. The upcoming live action version is being developed as a character-driven action film that centers on a young woman living in a failed state, where corruption reigns, and security forces profit from the trafficking of young women. When her father, a cop, is killed by someone dirty inside the force, she vows to track the murderer down with the help of her father's ex-partner, not realizing he is, in fact, the man who had her father killed.

Samuel L. Jackson says he'll play the ex-partner who had her father killed. 

An interesting project considering its subject matter, as well as who's directing it. But it's supposed to start shooting very soon.

However, I'm most excited and curious about Ptolemy Grey, especially as none of the several screen deals for Mosley's works have added up to anything.

Recall when it was announced last fall that a TV series based on Mosley's fictional African American private investigator Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, was in the works for the NBC network, but which the network eventually killed; hteamed up with TV series and documentary producer Diane Houslin to launch a new production company, B.O.B. Filmhouse (Best of Brooklyn Filmhouse), with the goal being to play an "active role" in the adaptation of his novels into films and TV series); Mosley has a deal in place with HBO, for his Leonid McGill series - the New York City private investigator, starting with the first book in the series titled, The Long Fall; and also there's TNT network's ordering of a pilot for Mosley's Fearless Jones series of novels; also B.O.B. Filmhouse was said to be in "active talks" to develop a project with Don Cheadle’s Crescendo Productions, although no word on what that project is; and finally there's the development of a feature film based on Mosley’s psychological thriller Man In My Basement, with Anthony Mackie in talks to star and Mosley co-writing the screenplay with Cheo Hodari Coker (Southland).

No movement on any of those yet. 

So much activity it seems to get fans excited about what might be to come, but, as we've seen here, nothing's guaranteed. All of these projects may go the way that the NBC one did; but at least, we hope to see even just ONE of these deals go all the way, and hopefully soon.

And given my conversation with Samuel L. Jackson, it just might be his.

More from my interview with Jackson to come...

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2 Comments

  • AI | December 19, 2012 6:36 PMReply

    Really enjoyed that book. Glad to see it and other Mosley works are coming to TV and film.

  • ALM | December 17, 2012 9:24 PMReply

    I love the synopsis of the book. The part in "Kite" is going to be interesting also. Good looking out Tambay! When does Sam Jackson sleep? He has more jobs.....

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