Jamie Ford’s best-selling debut novel Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is being developed into a film. Producer Diane Quon announced today that she has acquired the film rights with Joseph Craig of StemEnt as producer and actor/author/activist George Takei as executive producer.
“The book tells an intimate love story that is, at once, poignant and sweeping with historic magnitude told against the backdrop of the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII,” said Takei in a statement. “I was captivated by Jamie Ford’s novel when I first read it and visualized a compelling film in my mind’s eye. I saw the drama of enduring love despite governmental racism, the passage of time and the vicissitude of life. What a wonderful film it would make. Now we are beginning the exciting adventure of making it happen.”
The story follows Henry Lee, a Chinese American boy in Seattle who falls in love with Keiko, a Japanese American girl, as she is sent to an Internment camp during WWII. With themes of racism, commitment, and hope, the story is set in 1942 and later in 1986, when the belongings of Japanese families are discovered in the basement of an old hotel. A widower now, Henry must reconcile the past and the present, the things he did or didn’t do, the things he said, and the things he left unspoken.
The romantic drama is slated to start production in 2018 with Ford co-writing the screenplay. “The number one question I get from fans from all around the world is — will there be a film?,” says Ford, whose debut novel was released by Random House in 2009. “I’m delighted to say yes because for years I said no to filmmakers who wanted to change too many things about the story (like the ethnicity of my main character). With this team, I’m confident that fans will get a satisfying film that remains true to the spirit or the book.”
Ford’s apprehension about adapting the book comes with reason considering the recent headlines about the whitewashing of Asian and Asian American roles and the backlash coming from Ed Skrein being cast in Hellboy as an Asian American character (he later stepped down from the role after the outcry.) That said, the announcement of the adaptation of the film couldn’t come at a better time considering the underrepresentation of Asian and Asian American-led narratives in film. Most recently, Justin Chon’s L.A. riot indie Gook has been front and center for Hollywood’s Asian American community, making an impression on the specialty box office.
Even so, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is added to a very short stack of Asian films being developed which include Jon M. Chu’s upcoming adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s book Crazy Rich Asians.
The deal was brokered by Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, Kassie Evashevski of United Talent Agency, and attorney Wayne Alexander on behalf of Ford and attorney Joe Voss of Leavens, Strand & Glover represented the producers.