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Michael B. Jordan Is Turning Marlon James's Epic African Fantasy into a Movie

He's adapting the author's new novel 'Black Leopard, Red Wolf.'

by River Donaghey
Feb 7 2019, 5:21pm

Michael B. Jordan image by Rich Fury/Getty Images

Marlon James's last kaleidoscopic novel, the Man Booker Prize-winning A Brief History of Seven Killings, is currently being adapted into a limited series. While the folks at HBO struggle to turn what's basically As I Lay Dying if Faulkner wrote about Jamaican gangsters and cocaine into a cohesive TV show, it looks like another James book is getting the Hollywood treatment, too.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Michael B. Jordan has secured the rights to James's new novel, Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and will bring the book James (somewhat jokingly) dubbed "an African Game of Thrones" to the big screen.

Like those poor saps at HBO, Jordan's got his work cut out for him with this one. Black Leopard is a dense fantasy epic set in an otherworldly, mythical Africa where shape-shifting leopards and water goddesses team up to find a mysterious, missing boy. And it's only the first in James' planned Dark Star trilogy, which will reportedly tell the same story from three separate angles, Rashomon-style.

"I think in the West we're a little too obsessed with the idea that a story told must be truth," James told NPR in an interview earlier this week. "Whereas in African storytelling, a lot of African storytelling, you already know that the trickster is telling you the story... I have no duty to tell it true or not. It's your job to judge if I'm lying or not."

There's no screenwriter attached so far, but good luck to whatever poor bastard has to take James's intricate web of sentences and a fractured plot full of maybe-lies and crank out a tight two-hour script. Even James, who's on board to executive produce, sounds eager to see how someone would pull that one off.

"It would be interesting to see how [the novel] would be adapted, because I still think our cinematic language of sci-fi and fantasy is still very European—particularly fantasy," James told i09 in another recent interview. "And my book is not even remotely European."

As of now, Jordan is just producing the project as part of his new first-look deal with Warner Bros. He doesn't have official plans to star, but we'll pray to the water goddesses or whatever and see what happens as the adaptation takes shape.

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