Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk got an early helping hand from a surprising source: Jake Gyllenhaal?! Jenkins told the Los Angeles Times about the process of getting approval from James Baldwin’s (notoriously selective) estate to adapt the novel, and said the actor was “kind of one of the reasons this happened.” Gyllenhaal, who Jenkins describes as “a big Baldwin fan,” was already in conversations with Baldwin’s estate about another project.
“He had been talking to the estate, went through the channels and got them to respond to his queries about another project. And then I just happened to write them a letter, literally, the next day,” Jenkins told the Times. He’d reached out to the estate about adapting Baldwin’s novel well before Moonlight or his Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. “A woman at the estate — not Baldwin’s sister Gloria Karefa-Smart, who runs it — but the woman who runs all the official documentation, she said, ‘Well, I felt kinda bad because we were listening to Jake Gyllenhaal and we don’t ever want to be the kind of estate that only listens to famous people’ — I was nobody at the time — ‘so when your package came through, we were like, ‘We might as well listen to this guy named Barry Jenkins.’” (For what it’s worth: Gyllenhaal also had a helping hand in making the new Halloween happen.) Thank you Jake Gyllenhaal — a white ally!