The Story Behind Scarlett Johansson’s Directorial Debut

The tale she'll bring to the screen has quite a tale of its own

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Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

Scarlett Johansson attends the Dolce & Gabbana Spring/Summer 2012 fashion show as part Milan Womenswear Fashion Week on Sept. 25, 2011, in Milan.

Scarlett Johansson fans — true ScarJo fans —  may remember that the actress announced, a few years ago, her intention to get behind the camera and direct a movie. She already had a project in mind: an adaptation of the Truman Capote novel Summer Crossing. But for those who can’t remember that far back, a reminder came early this morning, in the form of news from Cannes that the international rights to the movie are up for grabs and that the U.S. distribution deal is already being handled— all signs that the movie is actually happening.

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Johansson said, in a statement available at The Hollywood Reporter, that the story has been a personal favorite of hers:

Several years ago I began working alongside the Capote estate and writer Tristine Skylar to adapt Summer Crossing, an inspired early work of Truman’s which has long captured my heart…Being able to bring this story to the screen as my full length directorial debut is a life dream and deep privilege.

Work on the film is scheduled to begin early next year.

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Summer Crossing is the story of a teenaged New York socialite who falls for a man below her station—but the book itself has got quite a story of its own. It was the Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Bold author’s first novel, which he started while in his late teens and working for The New Yorker. He mostly abandoned it in 1944, to begin working on Other Voices, Other Rooms. As the Guardian later reported, he returned to the Summer Crossing manuscript every now and then for the next few years, never feeling done with it, until giving up on it around 1949.

He left the manuscript in a box in his apartment in Brooklyn, an apartment he subsequently abandoned as well, at which time (around 1966), his house-sitter found the boxes that had been left outside by the landlord. The work was later found when the house sitter’s relative consigned the boxes. It was then sold at auction in 2004.

At the time, Alan Schwartz, executor of Capote’s literary estate, told the Associated Press that if the author hadn’t thought the work good enough that probably meant it would not be respectful to publish Summer Crossing as a novel, and that instead the manuscript would be used for scholarly work. However, by the end of 2005, Random House had published Summer Crossing (to middling reviews) so it ended up as a novel after all—and, if Scarlett Johansson has anything to do with it, that won’t be the end of it.