The last time Hollywood came calling at Max Brooks’ door, they took the title and basic concept of his work (World War Z) but stripped out most of the story and all the characters. So you might wonder whether he’d have second thoughts letting another title head out the door. Still, with the success of the zombie thriller, he’s still in demand, and now Sony, partnering with Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment company, has bought the rights to Brook’s graphic novel The Harlem Hellfighters.
The book is not, as you might have thought from the name, the story of people fighting evil in New York. It is based on a very real US Army unit, the 369th infantry division, an African American unit that fought in Europe during World War I. Despite spending more time in combat than any other, never losing a foot of ground or a single man to capture by the enemy, they still faced tremendous racial discrimination, even from their own government.
Brooks’ graphic novel, with illustrations by Caanan White, follows the unit’s story from enlistment in Harlem through boot camp in South Carolina to the front lines of trenches in France. The writer is set to craft the script for the studio, and you’ve got to figure Smith will have the first option on one of the lead roles if it makes it through development.