EXCLUSIVE: Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) and Jaden Smith (The Karate Kid, After Earth) are set to star in The Good Lord Bird, a big-screen adaptation of the 2013 National Book Award winner by James McBride (Miracle At St. Anna, Red Hook Summer). McBride is aboard to produce the pic about Henry “Onion” Shackleford (Smith), a young slave who links up with radical abolitionist John Brown (Schreiber) in 1856 Kansas and travels the nation with Brown’s motley crew of freedom fighters. Story is told with a satirical bent through the eyes of Onion, who wears a dress and is at first mistaken for a girl, as he bears witness to Brown’s historic campaign and encounters the likes of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman en route to the bloody Harper’s Ferry raid that helped spark the Civil War. McBride’s NY Times bestseller made Publishers Weekly‘s Top 10 Books of the Year list and has drawn comparisons to Mark Twain’s classic novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Fifteen-year-old Smith is coming off a run of feature turns in Sony’s Karate Kid reboot with Jackie Chan and sci-fier After Earth, opposite dad Will Smith. He’s set to return for sequel Karate Kid 2, which hired Breck Eisner to helm last week.
Schreiber, a Golden Globe nominee for his leading turn on Showtime’s Ray Donovan, will produce alongside McBride and Brian Taylor. McBride and Taylor previously teamed on another slavery-themed project, FX’s event series The Code, which is adapted from McBride’s book Song Yet Sung about Tubman and is set to star Kelsey Grammer. Schreiber is repped by UTA and Untitled Entertainment. Jaden Smith is repped by Paradigm. McBride is a client of Flip Brophy at Sterling Lord Literistic.