5 Literary Screen Adaptations Coming in 2021

By Hannah White

Many films and series that were set to release in 2020 were pushed out to next year due to theaters closing or being open at limited capacity.  Social distancing restrictions also caused Hollywood productions to shut down. But 2021 is looking much more hopeful; film sets and theaters have adapted to face COVID-19 restrictions and at-home streaming releases are becoming even more popular. Many shows have resumed filming and a plethora of new literary screen adaptations are set to release in the coming year. Here is a list of some of the adaptations I am most looking forward to, a few of which are based on some of my favorite books of all time.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Perhaps my favorite series of all time, based on one of my favorite books, Season Four of this Atwood adaptation based on the novel of the same name is set to be released by Hulu in 2021.  The newest series was originally scheduled to launch in fall 2020, however production was halted just two weeks into shooting. But the good news is that not only is this season set to release next year (a specific date has not yet been named), but it was also renewed for another season and possibly even more to come. This season will be ten episodes, not 13 like previous seasons, and the show’s star Elisabeth Moss will also be making her directorial debut.

Dune by Frank Herbert

The sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert was originally published in 1965 and is set in a distant future in which the story’s hero is sent to an uninhabitable planet that is home to a drug called “the spice” which extends human life and increases mental capacity. This screen adaptation was originally set to release in 2020, but is now set to drop on HBO Max and theaters in late 2021, but Legendary Entertainment is fighting against the streaming release. This film will star Call Me by Your Name’s Timothee Chalamet and Euphoria’s Zendaya.

Passing by Nella Larsen

I remember this 1920s Harlem Renaissance novella by Larsen was one of my favorite books I read in a Modern American Fiction course as an undergraduate. Full of intense psychological struggles and complex issues of race, gender, and class identity, this novella is sure to thrill as a screen adaptation. This upcoming drama is written and directed by Rebecca Hall and is set to be released at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2021. Passing follows the unexpected reunion of two friends who fall into an unhealthy obsession with each other. The movie will star Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga, as well as IT’s Alexander Skarsgard.

Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand will star in Joel Coen’s upcoming adaptation of the Shakespeare tragedy. Washington has experience performing in Shakespeare adaptations; he starred as Julius Caesar on Broadway in 2005 and had a role in Kenneth Branagh’s 1993 adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing. McDormand starred in a 2016 Berkeley Rep production and high school theater production as Lady Macbeth, as well.

Across the River and Into the Trees by Ernest Hemingway

Another adaptation I’m looking forward to watching is Paula Ortiz’s adaptation of Hemingway’s final novel. Starring Liev Schreibner and The Hunger GamesJosh Hutcherson, among others, there is no release date yet but it is tentatively scheduled for some time in the coming year. The 1950 book is set in Venice, as is the film, at the close of WWII where a middle-aged American colonel in failing health falls in love with a young Italian countess. Spanning just a matter of hours, this book is a bittersweet story about love and loss.

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