Rashid Johnson to Direct Adaptation of Richard Wright’s ‘Native Son’ in Feature Film Debut

Rashid Johnson.COURTESY UTA

Rashid Johnson.


It’s been a while since the go-go days of the ’90s, when ’80s art stars could jump from showing in white cubes in SoHo to directing big-budget flicks in Hollywood. David Salle, Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, and Julian Schnabel all made the leap, but with the exception of Schnabel, none of them really made a true go of it in Tinseltown. (Read all about that in Andrew Marzoni’s critical examination of these films, published in ARTnews in September 2015.)

Now, one of this current generation’s most celebrated artists is taking the helm of a Hollywood-backed feature film. Rashid Johnson, the artist who most recently had a solo show at Hauser & Wirth in New York, will direct an adaptation of Richard Wright’s classic novel Native Son. The film will be produced by Bow and Arrow Entertainment, which secured the rights to the book, and adapted for the screen by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks.

The collected talent here is pretty potent. Johnson has worked extensively with video but has never made anything feature length, and will be taking on a novel that was considered a milestone in the novelistic depiction of modern black life as soon as it was released. A press release quotes from Irving Howe’s initial review, in which he states, “The day Native Son appeared American culture was changed forever.”

And Parks is the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, as well as a MacArthur Genius Grant recipient.

Bow and Arrow, which will be shepherding the project into production, has had a string of successes lately. Its films The Little Hours and Golden Exits were both big critical hits at Sundance last month, and later this year, it will release Parrot Heads, a documentary about diehard Jimmy Buffet fans that sounds like a really chill time.

The film is represented by the UTA Independent Film Group. UTA reps Johnson, as well as a number of other artists, through its UTA Fine Arts division.

Let’s hope that Johnson’s Native Son also gets a Sundance bow, and perhaps some love from the Oscars. Given the current slate of Academy Awards nominees, seeing Johnson getting a nod for Best Director would be pretty great.

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