Since releasing the critically acclaimed (but Academy-ignored) Selma in 2014, Ava DuVernay’s been taking her sweet, well-deserved time selecting a new project. Rumors have flown about what she might do next: Would she direct Black Panther? (No.) Would she direct Lupita Nyong’o in Colin Trevorrow’s Intelligent Life? (Maybe — more on that in a minute.) Would she direct an Apple Music commercial starring Kerry Washington and Taraji P. Henson that made questionable statements about women’s abilities to find good music for themselves? (Yes. We all make mistakes.)
Thanks to a new report from Deadline, we can rest easy knowing that there’s at least one confirmed project on DuVernay’s horizon: An adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. For the unfamiliar or those who pretended to read it in grade school, Wrinkle is a classic, Newbery Medal-winning 1960s fantasy novel that follows a young girl named Meg who travels to a planet called Camazotz to find her missing father, a government scientist who’d been working on a mysterious project. It’s a lovely, intelligent, moving book, notable for its female protagonist (even rarer then) and its unusual refusal to talk down to children, despite being targeted at them. It’s also a book that took L’Engle years to get published, one that was rejected by dozens of publishers for being “too difficult,” and, you know, about a girl.
Disney’s been courting DuVernay for the job for six months. Though she doesn’t have a background in the fantasy genre, she’s a vocal champion of films by, about, and for women, and proved herself a skillful adapter of complex stories with Selma, so her hiring makes sense. So does the timing of the adaptation: The insane success of films like The Hunger Games and Frozen means studios are finally recognizing the earning potential of female-led films. (Appropriately, Frozen‘s Oscar-winning writer Jennifer Lee will pen A Wrinkle in Time, as well.) The White Dudes In Charge are also recognizing the cash money inherent in franchises, and A Wrinkle in Time is part of a larger L’Engle canon, five novels that will almost certainly be divided into multiple films, stretched out over the next decade, and wrung dry in terms of tie-in merchandising.
The Deadline item also notes that DuVernay is still in talks for Intelligent Life, starring Nyong’o as an alien who catches the romantic attentions of a UN worker, who then “risks his job and more” for a shot with her. It’s unclear which film would shoot first, but, as Deadline notes, both mark a big step up for DuVernay in terms of budget and visibility.