On one fateful European trip in 2013, Barry Jenkins wrote two scripts: “Moonlight,” from Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play, and “If Beale Street Could Talk,” from James Baldwin’s novel. “Moonlight” came together over just 10 days in Brussels. “If Beale Street Could Talk” was written over six weeks in Berlin.
Barry Jenkins, foreground center, and the cast accept the award for best picture for “Moonlight” at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP
Two years after “Moonlight,” Jenkins’ will release the other movie that came out of that luminous burst of creativity, one that he says happened only because he never expected anything to come of it.
Jenkins wrote “If Beale Street Could Talk,” about two young lovers (Kiki Layne, Stephan James) whose budding, radiant love is violently disrupted by the false accusation of a racist police officer, without the rights to Baldwin’s 1974 novel and little hope of getting them. At the time, he had made only the acclaimed micro-budget 2008 drama “Medicine for Melancholy.”
In an interview, Jenkins discussed adapted Baldwin’s deeply beautiful and sorrowful book and moving on from the Oscars. “It’s been a pretty good ride,” said Jenkins. “It feels like a week has passed since the whole ‘Moonlight’ thing started.”