Denzel Washington to Direct, Star in ‘Fences’ Film with Viola Davis
Turn back the clock to 2010, and the hottest ticket on Broadway is a revival of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-winning play Fences, a poignant and daring meditation on race relations in America with a focus on the hardships of the black experience. It has all the necessary qualifications for a bona fide Broadway smash: a handsome pedigree of awards and acclaim (the production took the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2010), urgent social significance, and some Hollywood talent slumming it on the boards in between film projects. Denzel Washington and Viola Davis starred as the married couple at the heart of Fences, winning raves and a Tony apiece, and created a rare sensation that dazzled audiences for thirteen weeks and then vanished.
Those of us who weren’t fortunate enough to be in New York in 2010, with enough money to spring for a crazy-expensive ticket, and the good fortune to make it through the arduous and highly uncertain process of actually procuring one, can now enjoy the dramatic highs of the Washington/Davis Fences production via an upcoming film adaptation of the play with both stars intact. Announced yesterday during the CinemaCon exhibitors convention in Las Vegas, the Paramount production will unite Washington and Davis for a re-revival, with Washington directing as well, reports Variety. (This marks his third directed feature, after The Great Debaters and Antwone Fisher.) While this gestating film certainly sounds like a tantalizing prospect in its own right, with power-producer Scott Rudin also attached, there‘s Oscar written all over this thing.
And we should be so lucky! The Academy Awards were perilously short on stories about black life this past year, and few works approach the subject with as much wounding honesty as Wilson’s play. Revolving around Troy and Rose, a middle-aged black couple living modestly but comfortably in Pittsburgh, the play tracks the struggles that they face both within society and their family unit. It cemented Wilson’s reputation as a master playwright, but couldn’t earn him enough power to get his own film adaptation made; as legend goes, Paramount approached him with plans for a movie in the late ’80s, but Wilson was adamant that any production could only move forward with a black director. The standoff between the studio and Wilson stalled production — until now. Washington will carry on his legacy in the months to come.