Spike Lee's Next Project: Adaptation of Graphic Novel Prince of Cats - Comic Years
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Spike Lee’s Next Project: Adaptation of Graphic Novel Prince of Cats

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BY April 29, 2020

Director Spike Lee will be tackling yet another adaptation after the success of Blackkklansman, for which he won Best Adapted Screenplay. His next project will be the movie version of the graphic novel Prince of Cats.

What to Know about the Graphic Novel Prince of Cats

If you’ve ever read Shakespeare (or at least seen a film version), then you might recognize the phrase “prince of cats.” If you do, then you can probably guess the graphic novel’s story. In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, “prince of cats” is the moniker that Romeo’s pal Mercutio repeatedly uses for Juliet’s cousin Tybalt. (As for what it means, it’s either a reference to Tibert the cat in the Reynard the Fox fables or it’s a reference to an Italian naughty word. Knowing Shakespeare, it’s probably both.)

As such, Ron Wimberly’s graphic novel Prince of Cats is a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet. It’s not quite Tybalt’s origin story, but that’s not that far off. Set in the streets of 1980s New York City, the book follows Tybalt as he hangs with friends and tussles with Montagues in literal sword fights. (They use katanas now, though.) As it’s set during the rise of hip-hop, the novel pulses with rap’s early energy. However, music isn’t the only influence. On the contrary, Wimberly draws in an array of illusions, from ancient myths to video games. In addition, as with Baz Luhrman’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, all the characters speak with a Shakespearean cadence, even if they’re not quoting the Bard directly. For example, here’s a sample from the book, featuring an ode to a familiar sight in summer:

When heat doth bind gelled sandal to sidewalk, listen —

For song that parts summer’s writhing miasma

And calls forth God’s wandering children

To the chariot of Mr. Soft-e.

DC/Vertigo published the novel in 2012, but it eventually went out of print. After that, Image Comics re-released a hardcover version in 2016.

All the Details on the Prince of Cats Movie

Legendary Entertainment acquired the film rights in 2018. Around the same time, actor Lakeith Stanfield (Atlanta, the upcoming Knives Out) was attached to the movie for the starring role. To my great sadness, Stanfield is apparently no longer a part of the project. In fact, there’s no word yet on any actors for the film.

However, we do know that Lee will be rewriting the script with Wimberly and with original screenwriter Selwyn Seyfu Hinds. Hinds has primarily worked as a producer, although he did write the 2019 Twilight Zone episode “Replay” (the one with the video camera). And if old-timey literary adaptations–even with the update to 80s Brooklyn–don’t seem like Spike Lee’s style, then you must have missed 2015’s Chiraq. That movie went even further back for inspiration, as it was based on Lysistrata, the Aristophanes play from 411 BC.

While this project is still in development, Lee is currently at work on post-production for his another film. Da 5 Bloods, a movie for Netflix, will follow “four African-American vets who return to Vietnam seeking their squad leader’s remains and the promise of buried treasure.” That film stars Chadwick Boseman–man, Spike Lee must love cats–along with a lot of familiar Spike Lee Joint players, like Delroy Lindo, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and Jasper Pääkkönen. Da 5 Bloods will drop on Netflix next year; we’ll let you know about the Prince of Cats release date when we have more information.

Are you intrigued by Prince of Cats (or are you a Montague)? Fence with us in the comments, let us know on social media, or ALL ARE PUNISHED.

featured image via Image Comics

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Salomé Gonstad is a freelance writer who grew up in the swampy wilds of south Alabama. When she's not yelling about pop culture on the internet, she's working on a supernatural thriller about her hometown. Also, we're pretty sure she's a werewolf. Email her at salome@comicyears.com.

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