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Giancarlo Esposito Will Direct & Play Frederick Douglass In John Brown Feature Film Starring Ed Harris

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act November 20, 2013 at 7:08PM

Giancarlo Esposito Will Direct & Play Frederick Douglass In John Brown Feature Starring Ed Harris
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Giancarlo-John Brown

Over a year ago, in an exclusive S&A interview with Giancarlo Esposito regarding his work on RevolutionBreaking Bad, his craft and more, the actor revealed to us that he was developing a project on abolitionist John Brown that he would direct, adding that he would like to make it a miniseries for cable TV.

Skip ahead to this afternoon to news that Esposito has made progress on the project, which is now titled Patriotic Treason, and has attracted the acting talents of Ed Harris to star as Brown.

Based on the book Patriotic Treason: John Brown and the Soul of America by Evan Carton, the project will not be a miniseries as Esposito originally told us he would prefer, but a feature film, which scribe Jose Rivera (Motorcycle Diaries, On The Road) will adapt, with Esposito also co-starring, playing Frederick Douglass

The film will be produced by Spectrum Films as well as Esposito and Act 4, with a summer 2014 shoot planned. 

I should note that this is the second John Brown project announced this year. It was in July when it was revealed that another actor, Paul Giamatti, had partnered with FX to develop a mini-series on John Brown, which will trace "the true story of the abolitionist’s transformation from a lowly 50-year old farmer to a notorious anti-slavery freedom fighter in Kansas and his famed 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry."

The project, itself also based on a book, Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz, and which is expected to be 6 to 8 hours in length, is part of a two-year first-look deal Giamatti and partner Daniel Carey’s Touchy Feely Films are under with FX Productions.

Gabriel Range is adapting Horwitz’s book.

Also, long-time readers of S&A will remember that in 2009, prior to Django UnchainedQuentin Tarantino revealed his interest in making a film about John Brown, but not in the traditional "dreary, solemn, historical" manner biopics usually take form, as he stated back then, further claiming that Brown is his "favorite American who's ever lived."

Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds-style version of John Brown's story was to reimagine real life events, and would've seen Brown's successful seizure of an armory, subsequently leading directly to the end of slavery, preventing the Civil War, instead of as it really happened - Brown was unsuccessful in his attempt to start a slave revolt at Harper's Ferry in 1859; however that occurrence helped fuel the movement that started the Civil War.

This all came on the heels of his success with Inglorious Basterds.

No John Brown film from Tarantino on the horizon though (as far as we know), and we're not sure if we will ever see one.

But I'm looking forward to seeing what Giancarlo Esposito does with the material, especially now that it's going to be a feature film instead, and he'll be co-starring, playing Frederick Douglass.

So... might a Nat Turner mini-series or film be next? Don't hold your breath...

This article is related to: Giancarlo Esposito, Ed Harris


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