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Kasi Lemmons Set To Helm "On Beauty" Based On Zadie Smith Novel

by Vanessa Martinez
March 27, 2012 6:56 PM
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Some exciting news for fans of Lemmons and author Zadie Smith!

Kasi Lemmons (Eve's Bayou, Talk To Me) is set to adapt and direct On Beauty, based on Zadie Smith's Booker Prize-nominated novel by the same name. 

We last posted about Lemmons plans to adapt Langston Hughes' gospel song play adaptation Black Nativity in June of last year. It looks like she's still on track for developing that Fox Searchlight project.

On Beauty will be a co-production between Carol Polakoff (a journalist with a slate of novels to produce including Waiting For Bardot, Secret Sky, American Prometheus), Ruby Films and Film4.

Zadie Smith's novel centers on the dynamics of two distinct families with their own set of values, beliefs, races and sexual politics, and how their lives are intertwined.

Here's the description of the book (via amazon):

Howard Belsey, a Rembrandt scholar who doesn't like Rembrandt, is an Englishman abroad and a long-suffering professor at Wellington, a liberal New England arts college. He has been married for thirty years to Kiki, an American woman who no longer resembles the sexy activist she once was. Their three children passionately pursue their own paths: Levi quests after authentic blackness, Zora believes that intellectuals can redeem everybody, and Jerome struggles to be a believer in a family of strict atheists. Faced with the oppressive enthusiasms of his children, Howard feels that the first two acts of his life are over and he has no clear plans for the finale. Or the encore.

Then Jerome, Howard's older son, falls for Victoria, the stunning daughter of the right-wing icon Monty Kipps, and the two families find themselves thrown together in a beautiful corner of America, enacting a cultural and personal war against the background of real wars that they barely register. An infidelity, a death, and a legacy set in motion a chain of events that sees all parties forced to examine the unarticulated assumptions which underpin their lives. How do you choose the work on which to spend your life? Why do you love the people you love? Do you really believe what you claim to? And what is the beautiful thing, and how far will you go to get it?

This book is on my must-read-right-now list. :-)

More details from Deadline:

The book is an academic comedy of manners, focusing on the story of two families with different but increasingly intertwined lives, race and sexual politics. It’s been called a modern day Howard’s End, which was an inspiration for the author. Alison Owen and Paul Trijbits of Ruby Films are producing with Carol Polakoff.

Polakoff, who came up the ranks as a journalist, is financing the development of her projects through a consortium of US and European-based private investors.

Who has read the book? Thoughts on cast?

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  • Bklyn Negress | March 31, 2012 10:22 AMReply

    I LOVED Zadie Smith's White Teeth but I thought On Beauty was just ok. However, I'm open to seeing the movie.

  • James | March 30, 2012 1:10 PMReply

    Colin Firth as Howard!

  • Pete Chatmon | March 28, 2012 9:51 PMReply

    I talked to Kasi today (we both teach at NYU) and she's doing her thing, excited about both of these projects. Definitely excited to see how these come together. Talk To Me is one of my favorite films from the last few years...

  • Ava | March 28, 2012 7:27 PMReply

    BTW Thom:
    The only DVD I've seen thus far is only available to Region 2 DVD Players. It won't play in U.S. DVD Players. Looks like Hulu is the best option. Thanks Starfishncoffee!

  • Mary | March 28, 2012 10:50 PM

    How are y'all gonna call yourselves film lovers, and you don't have region-free DVD players. I don't understand.

  • Terence Nance | March 28, 2012 5:35 PMReply

    I am soo excited about this I can't contain myself.

  • Ava | March 30, 2012 11:53 AM

    @ Mary. LOL. My excuse I'm a playwright who has written the occasional screenplay, so I care more about reading and writing plays.

  • starfishncoffee | March 28, 2012 2:37 PMReply

    @Ava, The White Teeth adaptation is available for streaming on Hulu (regular even) for FREE so everyone can see it! Yes Naomie Harris is splendid as usual, and I didn't realize Archie Panjabi from The Good Wife was in it, and also an itty-bity James McAvoy!

    I'm so excited about this film, I'm giddy. Loved this book and I think it's ripe for a film adaptation. It's a complex, unique yet relatable story with strong characters and Kasi is perfect for it. I can't even begin to start imagining casting. I'll have to get back to y'all on that one.

  • Ava | March 28, 2012 7:08 PM

    Oh wow, thanks for letting me know! I had moved on from this and forgotten about it for years now. I joked with Zadie about wanting to do an adaptation of White Teeth only to realize that it had been adapted for film already. She sympathized because she had wanted to do an adaptation of Their Eyes Were Watching God, only to discover that Suzan Lori-Parks (someone I also once had a conversation with years previously) was doing the adaptation.
    And thanks Thom for letting me know about the DVD. I wonder what they did about the music rights issue? Perhaps the music had to be altered. Oh well, now I can find out for myself.
    Strange but as I was reading 'On Beauty' years ago, I was imagining that someone would be writing a screen adaptation. This time I was not hoping it would be me (LOL). Good luck to Kasi Lemmons!

  • suga | March 28, 2012 11:58 AMReply

    It's nothing at all like The Inkwell. I enjoyed the book it but, I'm shocked it's being made in to a movie, especially before her novel "White Teeth", which was absolutely marvelous.

  • Thom | March 28, 2012 2:47 PM

    White Teeth was quietly released on DVD last year. Google it.

  • Ava | March 28, 2012 2:27 PM

    White Teeth does have a film adaptation. It debut on Chanel 4 in the U.K. many years ago and had a 'One and Done' release on PBS' Masterpiece Theatre Contemporary years ago. It was never released via DVD and as I understand from having communicated with Zadie Smith directly at the time, there was a fight over music rights (White Teeth used a lot of songs from the 70s that have very strong copyright protections). It's a shame that next to nobody in the U.S. has seen White Teeth because it was the first time I ever saw Naomi Harris and she was quite impressive as the Jamaican Mother.

    When I read 'On Beauty' I knew it was only a matter of time before someone did an adaptation of this novel. I expected it to happen years ago.

  • urbanauteur | March 28, 2012 1:37 PM

    @SUGA, what i've meant was, the inkwell's [class element] that u`ber teen director-matty rich f-up...

  • Jen | March 28, 2012 11:56 AMReply

    Loved this book! So glad this film is being made.

  • Jay | March 28, 2012 3:26 AMReply

    Finally! I've been waiting for new Kasi Lemmons info. Thanks!

  • Neziah | March 27, 2012 9:58 PMReply

    Glad she's back.

  • urbanauteur | March 27, 2012 9:23 PMReply

    This sounds like "The Inkwell" on steroids, with a touch of the BBC's Upstairs/Downstairs t.v. series?
    but i am happy she's back at the helm;-).

  • urbanauteur | March 30, 2012 5:22 PM

    @SOMERSET, i'm very hip with E.M.FORSTER,why dont YOU peep his short stories-The Celestial Omnibus/The Otherside of the Hedge,great sparse writing!, plus isaw both his book adaptations- A ROOM WITH A VIEW & HOWARDS END.... when i made the accessment of The Inkwell, i was referencing its lackadisical 'thematic/class dynamics' via the setting(martha's vineyard) the subject matter,regardless of how handy handed it was dealt(helm by a renegade/retrograde teen director-matty rich,nuff aid..i SAW alot of possibilities(if it was in the RIGHT directors hands) between Trey Ellis coming of age,mgnum opus AND(?) E.M. Forster's novels...think or peep what andrea arnokld did with Withering Heights and what could be done or flip with Howards End or The Celestial Omnibus/The Story of Panic/The External Moment or Mr.Andrews?, get what i'm saying?...Somerset?,..let's be more Dialectical with OUR approach to OUR Cultural Divine, W___Somerset Maugham, right;-)?

  • Somerset | March 28, 2012 4:01 PM

    It's nothing like "The Inkwell" but if you have seen Howard's End then you have the basic outline for the movie. When Smith was writing the book she told the story to her husband and even he said, "Wow, that sounds like Howard's End". It's changed enough with being updated and adding race issues with class that she won't be called out for plagiarism. Even the nodd to one of the main characters (Howard Belsey) let's the reader know that she's putting a twist on Howard's End.

    And, yes, I am very glad they are making this book into a movie.

  • sosgemini | March 27, 2012 7:42 PMReply

    Baby baby!!! Made my day!

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