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"The world needed John Brown and John Brown came, and time will do him justice." Frederick Douglass (1886)

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

A John Brown Movie, This Time?  Ed Harris, Giancarlo Esposito to Star in Film Adaptation of Carton's Patriotic Treason

According to Deadline Hollywood (11/20), "Giancarlo Esposito has lined up historical drama, Patriotic Treason, as his next directing project, with Oscar-nominated Ed Harris set to star as radical abolitionist John Brown."  The story, adapted from Evan Carton's 2006 book on Brown, Patriotic Treason: John Brown And The Soul of America, is supposed to be adapted by Oscar nominee Jose Rivera (Motorcycle Diaries, On The Road), and centers on the Harper's Ferry raid.  According to According to Jen Yamato, "The Emmy-nominated Esposito will also star in Patriotic Treason as Frederick Douglass, the freed slave-turned-abolitionist and orator who declined to join Brown’s Harper’s Ferry attack."
Ed Harris
Esposito is quoted as saying: “John Brown was the lightning rod of his place and time, but, to me, his story is just as electric in our world today, where controversies about race, religion, patriotism, and the use of violence for democratic ends are as intense as they were then.” Yamato reports that the project came about because Keith Sweitzer, one of author Carton's former students at the University of Texas, now represents Spectrum Films, "and helped develop the book deal." Sweitzer, Robert Knott, and Esposito will produce the film, along with Act 4′s Jesse Singer & David Johnson, "who are eyeing an early summer shoot."  

Of course, the wind is full of old and new reports about John Brown movies, but despite the good news that friend Carton's book will be adapted for the silver screen, we won't hold our breath.  If we've learned anything from observing the story of almost-made movies about Brown, there will be no movie made about the Old Man until all the paperwork has been signed, all legalities are finalized, and all money is certain for all interested parties.  
Giancarlo Esposito

Evan Carton
This now makes two current John Brown book deals (the other being Tony Horwitz's Midnight Rising), not to mention the ghosts of older "book deals," like Stephen Oates' 1970 biography and Russell Banks' 1998 fiction.  There are also a few screenplay projects underway, some with great hopefulness.   Indeed, it would be nice if more than one of these projects come to production, but I'll be happy with the film that most fairly and accurately portrays Brown.  In film, or so I understand, this largely depends on the director, regardless of the book from which the story is adapted.  So I am hopeful that Giancarlo Esposito will bring a positive influence upon this important contemporary treatment of Brown's story.  Certainly, we need a John Brown film for the 21st century, not a rehash of the "crazy" 20th century cinematic representation or the more recent "terrorist" analysis.

Best wishes to Evan Carton, the putative film producers, and both director/actor Giancarlo Esposito and the would-be "John Brown of the screen," Ed Harris.  Mr. Harris might find it interesting to know that an old friend of John Brown, who wrote to him during his last days in Virginia, was a prominent tycoon and antislavery man from Rhode Island named Edward Harris.  

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