The long-awaited film version of August Wilson's Tony- and Pulitzer-winning drama Fences, starring Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and several other cast members of the acclaimed 2010 Broadway revival, has set December 16 as its premiere date, making it eligible for 2017 Academy Awards consideration.
Two-time Oscar winner Washington and Davis play the lead roles of Troy and Rose Maxson, performances that won them Tony Awards in 2010. Mykelti Williamson plays the role of Gabriel, and Russell Hornsby again plays Lyons in the film.
Update: Although Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner had been announced to adapt the script, a spokesperson for Paramount told Playbill.com that the film is using the script created by Wilson himself before his death in 2005.
The movie will open in limited release Decmber 16, but open across that country on Christmas Day, according to Deadline.com.
Washington also directs. He plays the role created on Broadway by James Earl Jones. Washington has a separate deal with HBO to bring the rest of Wilson's “Century Cycle” or “Pittsburgh Cycle” plays to the small screen. The Fences project reportedly is not included, and is being produced for Paramount by Washington and Scott Rudin.
Also cast in the film: Jovan Adepo (The Leftovers) as Washington's son Cory and Saniyya Sidney (Roots, Hidden Figures) as daughter Raynell.
Fences won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play.
The Piano Lesson, which was also honored with a Pulitzer, is the only of Wilson's plays to have been adapted for the screen. The playwright's longtime collaborator Lloyd Richards directed the 1995 made-for-television movie.
None of his other works, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Two Trains Running and Joe Turner's Come and Gone, have made it to the screen. Until he died, Wilson insisted that any screen adaptation of his work would have to be helmed by an African-American director, a demand studios resisted.
Washington's stature and the recent controversy over the lack of diversity in the Hollywood power structure gave Fences a stronger chance of moving forward.
Fences is the story of Troy Maxson, a Pittsburgh sanitation worker who once dreamed of a baseball career, but was too old when the major leagues finally admitted black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him and causes him to make a decision that tears his family apart.
Kushner won back-to-back Tony Awards in 1993 and 1994 for the two parts of his play Angels in America, which also won him the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
(Updated July 18, 2016)