Barry Jenkins on keeping James Baldwin’s voice in Oscar-nominated If Beale Street Could Talk
On Feb. 24, winners will be crowned at the 91st Academy Awards. But before the red carpet is rolled out and envelopes are opened, Entertainment Weekly has inside intel on the 2019 nominees. Keep checking back at EW.com this week for spotlights on contenders in all the major categories.
Director of: If Beale Street Could Talk
Oscar past: 2 nominations, 1 win
Despite considering himself a “Baldwin zealot,” Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins hadn’t read the author’s If Beale Street Could Talk when a friend told him he should make it into a movie.
As soon as Jenkins opened it, he was “grabbed by telling the story of soulmates,” but knew in order to adapt it successfully, he had to ensure Baldwin’s voice wasn’t subdued. “The writing is very lush,” says Jenkins. “Mr. Baldwin was a very provocative writer and I wanted his voice to be a large part of the movie, so I used the lavish nature of his language as an inspiration when trying to visually translate the words as images.”
Paying attention to the source material was one thing, but winning over Baldwin’s family was another. Says Jenkins: “The biggest compliment they’ve given me is [telling me] that it feels like Baldwin—and that is very important to me.
Though nominated in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, Jenkins was overlooked for both Best Director and Best Picture award. Regina King, who plays Sharon Rivers in the movie, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
If Beale Street Could Talk