Steven Spielberg’s Amblin to Produce Adaptation of Percival Everett’s Bestseller ‘James’ for Universal, Taika Waititi in Early Talks to Direct (EXCLUSIVE)

Universal Pictures has acquired feature film rights to “James,” the latest book from Percival Everett, whose novel “Erasure” was adapted as “American Fiction.” Steven Spielberg will executive produce the movie through his company, Amblin Partners, with Taika Waititi in early talks to direct the project. Everett will write the screenplay and will serve as executive producer.

Published in March by Doubleday to critical raves, “James” reframes the classic story of Huckleberry Finn from the point of view of Jim, an enslaved man who floats down the Mississippi River with teenaged Finn, a good friend of Tom Sawyer.

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The book’s description reads, “While many narrative set pieces of ‘Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ remain in place…Jim’s agency, intelligence and compassion are shown in a radically new light.” “James” made the New York Times’ and Amazon’s list of best books of 2024 (so far). It was also a New York Times’ bestseller.

Everett, a professor of English at USC, published “Erasure” in 2001. Adapted as “American Fiction” by director Cord Jefferson, it won the Oscar for adapted screenplay earlier this year. Everett has authored more than 30 books of fiction and poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize finalist “Telephone,” and the Booker Prize-shortlisted “The Trees.” He has received the NBCC Ivan Sandrof Lifetime Achievement Award, the Windham-Campbell Prize, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the PEN Center USA Award for Fiction, among many honors.

Waititi recently directed “Next Goal Wins” and has wrapped production on sci-fi story “Klara and the Sun,” starring Jenna Ortega and Amy Adams. He has been developing an as-yet-untitled “Star Wars” film. His other credits include “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Hunt for the Wilderpeople.” Waititi won an Oscar for his script for “Jojo Rabbit.”

Amblin’ has “Twisters” in theaters this summer, with “Jurassic World 4” and “The Thursday Murder Club” up next. Spielberg most recently directed the Oscar-nominated and semi-autobiographical drama, “The Fabelmans,” and is working on an untitled event film that features a script from David Koepp, who wrote “Jurassic Park” and “War of the Worlds” for the filmmaker.

Everett is represented by CAA and the Melanie Jackson Agency. Waititi is represented by CAA, Manage-ment, Yorn, Levine, Barnes, Krintzman, Rubenstein, Kohner, Endlich, Goodell & Gellman and ID PR.

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