In spring 1957, an unknown young woman from Monroeville, Alabama, finished the first draft of a novel that was based in part on the character and experiences of her father, a local attorney. She portrayed him with conflicted feelings: as the parent she loved and also as a racist who’d attended a meeting of the Ku Klux Klan and asked questions such as: “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?”
The Hollywood Reporter’s recent article, “Let Aaron Sorkin's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Adaptation Move Forward,” explains that it was only later, when a gruff but motherly editor named Tay Hohoff had sent the writer back to the drawing board, that she re-thought her story and the lawyer himself—redeveloping him as the dignified Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lee’s reinvention of Finch would have remained a well-kept secret, if her attorney, Tonja Carter, hadn’t taken the controversial step of letting HarperCollins publish that early draft, titled Go Set a Watchman, a few months before its author’s death in February 2016. The book became a bestseller, despite the many questions as to whether Lee, a recluse who’d never published any other novel after Mockingbird came out in 1960, would have wanted it out there.
Now Carter and Lee’s estate are battling over whether to allow Aaron Sorkin to move ahead with his stage adaptation of the book.
The news that the Oscar-winning screenwriter behind The West Wing and The Social Network was creating a Broadway production, made headlines when it was announced in February 2016. However, the play’s future is now in doubt. On March 14, Lee’s estate announced it was suing the production and producer on the grounds that they’d violated an agreement that “the Play shall not derogate or depart in any manner from the spirit of the Novel nor alter its characters.” Sorkin wants the main characters, who are children, to be played by adults.
The estate may have a good argument. Its response appears to be based on the fact that the adaptation could jeopardize the chances of bringing new readers to a novel, that’s already sold more than 40 million copies.
Reference: The Hollywood Reporter (March 19, 2018) “Let Aaron Sorkin's 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Adaptation Move Forward”