Billy Porter (Pose) and frequent collaborator Dan McCabe (Fruits of Thy Labor) have been tapped to script a James Baldwin biopic for Byron Allen‘s Allen Media Group Motion Pictures, with the former also to realize his longtime dream of portraying the cultural icon.
The film will be based on the 1994 book James Baldwin: A Biography by David Leeming, an emeritus professor of English at the University of Connecticut who was a friend of Baldwin’s for 25 years, as well as his assistant.
A gay, African American writer and civil rights activist born in Harlem who wrote critically acclaimed and influential essays, novels, plays and poems, Baldwin’s best-known works include Go Tell It on the Mountain, Notes of a Native Son, Another Country, The Fire Next Time, Giovanni’s Room and If Beale Street Could Talk. Lemming’s biography of Baldwin creates an intimate portrait of a complex, troubled, driven and brilliant man, plumbing every aspect of his life, including his gift for compassion and love, the public pressures that overwhelmed his quest for happiness, and his passionate battle for Black identity and racial justice.
Other recent projects demonstrating Baldwin’s enduring cultural relevance include the Academy Award-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro from Raoul Peck, taking the author and his unfinished novel Remember This House as its subjects, and Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of his novel If Beale Street Could Talk, which won one Oscar from three nominations, among numerous other accolades.
Porter and D.J. Gugenheim will produce the new Baldwin project for Incognegro Productions, with AMGMP’s Allen, Carolyn Folks, Jennifer Lucas, Matthew Signer and Chris Charalambous to serve as exec producers.
“We at Allen Media Group Motion Pictures are extremely passionate about sharing James Baldwin’s phenomenal story with the world,” said Allen Media Group’s Founder, Chairman and CEO, Allen. “Billy Porter and Dan McCabe’s talent and commitment to amplifying James Baldwin’s legacy and contributions are invaluable and unmatched for this unique and epic story.”
“As a Black queer man on this planet with relative consciousness I find myself, like James Baldwin said, ‘in a rage all the time.’ I am because James was,” added Porter. “I stand on James Baldwin’s shoulders, and I intend to expand his legacy for generations to come.”
Porter is an actor, singer, director, composer and playwright who broke out on screen with his 3x Golden Globe-nominated role as Ball scene emcee Pray Tell on FX’s Pose, with which he in 2019 became the first openly gay Black man to be nominated for and win an Emmy in a lead acting category. He prior to that originated the role of Lola in the Broadway musical Kinky Boots, landing Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle Awards for his performance, as well as a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album. Porter most recently appeared in the Paramount/Fifth Season hit 80 for Brady and has also been seen in films like Cinderella, along with series like Gossip Girl, The Twilight Zone and American Horror Story. Coming up next for the actor named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People for 2020, who also won a Tony as producer of Best Musical A Strange Loop, is Bill Oliver’s custody-battle drama Our Son, in which he stars opposite Luke Evans.
McCabe is a New York-based writer and playwright behind the Porter-directed play The Purists, which won 2020’s Elizabeth Osborn Award for Best New Play and the and the Elliot Norton Award for Best Production, along with such stage titles as Christina Martinez and Blame the Parents. The Juilliard grad teamed with Porter to sell the original TV idea Fruits of Thy Labor to Peacock, with Greg Berlanti and Warner Bros Television Studios coming aboard to produce. McCabe’s feature The Home, co-written with playwright Christopher Shinn, is currently in development at Paramount.
Allen Media Group Motion Pictures has previously released the successful shark thrillers 47 Meters Down and 47 Meters Down: Uncaged from Johannes Roberts, and in February reteamed with the filmmaker on a new film in the genre titled The Red Triangle, as we told you first. Other notable titles from from Allen’s full-service, theatrical motion picture distribution company include the historical thriller Chappaquiddick and the Scott Cooper-helmed Western Hostiles, starring Christian Bale.
Porter is represented by CAA, Industry Entertainment and Felker Toczek Suddleson; McCabe by CAA, Underground and Schreck Rose Dapello.