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Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo to Star in Romantic Drama 'Americanah'

Earlier this year Lupita Nyong'o acquired the rights to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's award-winning 2012 novel Americanah, signing on to star as Nigerian émigré Ifemelu, as well as produce along with Brad Pitt's Plan B Entertainment. David Oyelowo has also signed on to star as romantic lead Obinze. The book is divine: beautifully written, emotionally complex, swooningly romantic and often bitingly funny. It's also full of razor-sharp insight on immigration and cultural identity, the shifting concept of home, and blackness in America, Nigeria, and Britain.

The project is guaranteed to be a meaty opportunity for Nyong'o and Oyelowo, but is still several steps away from production. Some questions:

1. Should we worry that the project doesn't yet have a script? I'd say no, in part because of my love for the source material, but largely due to the strength of Plan B producing. They've got a respectable filmography, and the last couple years have been a serious hot streak (Moneyball, 12 Years a Slave, Selma). They shouldn't have trouble attracting top-drawer talent. With the right team in place, this could be someone's shot at a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar.

2. Who should direct? It's only natural that Ava DuVernay's name should come to mind, given her skill with romantic drama and epic political context. It would make hers a 3-for-3 David Oyelowo filmography, and she certainly already has the in with Plan B Entertainment. But since the story is so indivisible from the non-American experience, and so specifically Nigerian in perspective, perhaps a Nollywood director might be a better choice. Perhaps Biyi Bandele, whose adaptation of Adichie's novel Half of a Yellow Sun came out earlier this year to mixed reviews, would be interested in another shot at the author's work?

3. Will Beyoncé help with the movie's PR? When Beyoncé dropped her secret album last year, she gave Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie a major profile boost by sampling her TED talk "Everyone Should Be a Feminist on the song "***Flawless", which sent Americanah rocketing up the Amazon sales charts. (To be honest, that's also how I first heard of the book.) Maybe the movie release can be preceded by a tie-in Beyoncé single that samples dialogue from the movie? Harness the power of Bey and you have the makings of a serious box office hit on your hands.

It's impossible not to admire Lupita Nyong'o's initiative and savvy in carving out her career, snapping up the rights to an interesting project herself and then backing that up by attracting major talent and industry clout. No production date is set; join me in hoping that this moves forward smoothly.

Have you read Americanah? Who else do you think should be brought on to the production?

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Reader Comments (7)

My book club just finished this book. My interest is piqued.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Raul - My book club just did too! I'm really looking forward to this.

Remember a year ago when we were all fretting that Lupita might get ignored or pushed aside? So glad that the opposite is true.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAnne Marie

I cannot wait for this film. I love love loved the book and Lupita strikes me as the perfect fit for Adichie's protagonist. Add in Oyelowo and my excitement level is off the rough. Now... to get a good writer/director pair for it.

December 18, 2014 | Registered CommenterManuel Betancourt

Fantastic news! The book was so good! The casting so far is sublime. Wait, there's no script yet? Uh oh. Hope we don't have to wait a hundred years for this one, as the story is fresh is many people's minds and would certainly get a large audience if it came out within the next 18- 24months or so.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I know it will still be difficult but I'm SO glad/relieved/impressed that Lupita is taking a proactive approach to her career, rather than waiting for the shitty roles Hollywood will unimaginatively cast her in (if at all). It doesn't surprise me at all that someone of her obvious intelligent (and academic pedigree) would choose so fine a novel.

December 18, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJase

I too am very happy for Lupita. But did anyone else NOT like the ending of the book?
I was expecting that Obinze would choose his own daughter and her stability over Ifemelu. But the book went the route of the more conventional ending with the lovers together.

December 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commentershawshank

I know this is uncool but I really didn't like Nyong'o last year she was very amateurish.but Female Black centred films a rare so good luck to her.

December 19, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

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