Fans of Harper Lee’s acclaimed 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird and the movie adaptation starring Gregory Peck are going to be in for a lot of surprises in Aaron Sorkin’s stage version. The play will be premiered on Broadway in December 2018.
Sorkin told New York magazine’s cultural website Vulture.com in an interview during the Toronto International Film Festival that the key characters Scout, Jem and Dill will “talk Sorkin” because “I didn’t write their language like they were children”. The play will be directed by Bartlett Sher, who has previously adapted the musical South Pacific.
Sorkin’s acclaimed plays and screenplays include the stage and film versions of A Few Good Men, the movies The Social Network, Moneyball and Steve Jobs, and the television shows The West Wing and The Newsroom.
Sorkin’s version of Lee’s beloved coming-of-age novel about racial prejudice in the American South will have a different take on the lawyer Atticus Finch, who represents Tom Robinson on the trumped-up charge of having sexually assaulted a white woman.
“As far as Atticus and his virtue goes, this is a different take on Mockingbird than Harper Lee’s or Horton Foote’s,” Sorkin told Vulture.com. “He becomes Atticus Finch by the end of the play, and while he’s going along, he has a kind of running argument with Calpurnia, the housekeeper, which is a much bigger role in the play I just wrote. He is in denial about his neighbors and his friends and the world around him, that it is as racist as it is, that a Maycomb County jury could possibly put Tom Robinson in jail when it’s so obvious what happened here. He becomes an apologist for these people.”
Horton Foote wrote the screenplay for Robert Mulligan’s movie adaptation from 1962, which stars Gregory Peck as Finch and Robert Duvall as Boo Radley, the Finches’ troubled neighbour.
Sorkin’s version will address the current racial tensions in America in the age of Donald Trump. “All of a sudden, Donald Trump stood up at a news conference and said there are good people on both sides,” Sorkin said in the interview. “And I went, ‘Wow, bingo. We hit it right in the middle.’”
In a previous interview to the New York Times newspaper, Sorkin had said, “To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most revered pieces of 20th century American literature. It lives a little bit differently in everybody’s imagination in the way a great novel ought to, and then along I come. I’m not the equal of Harper Lee. No one is.”