Universal Pictures has acquired the rights to Percival Everett’s bestselling novel James, according to an announcement in Variety. Steven Spielberg will executive produce the project through Amblin Entertainment and the author himself will write the screenplay.

World of Reel also reports the hiring of New Zealand filmmaker Taika Waititi to direct; Waititi won an Oscar for his Jojo Rabbit screenplay and is currently directing the screen adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun. He was also the director of Next Goal Wins and Thor: Ragnarok.

James is Everett’s reworking of Mark Twain’s classic Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from the point of view of Jim, the enslaved character who rafts the Mississippi with Huck. The novel was published in March to rave reviews and became a New York Times bestseller. In a starred review, a Kirkus reviewer wrote “One of the noblest characters in American literature gets a novel worthy of him.”

Everett, who has published more than 35 books since 1983 and was the recipient of a lifetime achievement award from the National Book Critics Circle in 2021, moved from cult status into the limelight with the success of the film American Fiction, based on his 2001 novel, Erasure.

There is no word yet on casting for the James adaptation.

Marion Winik hosts NPR’s The Weekly Reader podcast.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified the nationality of director Taika Waititi