Jaden Smith to star in film of James McBride’s ‘The Good Lord Bird’

Jaden Smith will play Little Onion, the young slave who joins John Brown’s team of abolitionists in a film adaptation of James McBride’sThe Good Lord Bird,” Deadline reports.

The satirical take on a serious era in America’s history won McBride the 2013 National Book Award. The jury wrote that it was written in “a voice as comic and original as any we have heard since Mark Twain,” finding the novel “daringly irreverent, but also wise, funny, and affecting.”

Abolitionist Brown will be played by Liev Shrieber. Hector Tobar wrote in The Times’ review of the book that “Brown is a comic figure, given to making religious speeches at strangely inappropriate moments. He’s a bit touched, frankly, and only the newest and unlikeliest member of his band of slavery-fighting renegades can see it.”


Brown believes Little Onion to be a girl, but he is actually Henry Shakleford, an escaped Kansas slave who meets the abolitionist in rags. Pretending to be a girl is easy, Henry says, because “a damsel out west on the trail could spit, chaw tobacco, holler, grunt, and fart, and gather no more attention to herself than a bird would snatching crumbs off the ground.” White folks around Little Onion believe the ruse, while many slaves see through Henry’s deception.

McBride will serve as a producer on the film. It’s not his first -- his debut novel, “The Miracle of St. Anna,” was made into a film by Spike Lee, and Lee and McBride co-wrote the filmmaker’s 2012 movie “Red Hook Summer.”

When “The Good Lord Bird” might be seen on screens has not been announced.


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