Washington will direct and "hopefully" star in the role created on Broadway by James Earl Jones, a role Washington played on Broadway in 2010 to Tony-winning effect. Washington has a separate deal with HBO to bring all ten 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.
Washington's Broadway co-star, Viola Davis, would recreate her role as his wife, "schedules pending." She won the Tony for her performance.
Deadline reported that Washington is trying to pull the film together during calendar year 2016 so as to be eligible for 2017 Academy Award consideration.
Kushner and Washington reportedly are working on a "rough draft" of a screenplay adaptation started by Wilson himself before his death in 2005. "They want to use everything Wilson has done," an unnamed source told Deadline. "They want to use all of his words."
Fences won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
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, give 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.