Steven Spielberg Wins Rights to Steinbeck’s Classic ‘The Grapes of Wrath’

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It was 75 years ago when author John Steinbeck released a novel that would change the face of Dust Bowl America forever and the lives of high school English students everywhere. The Pulitzer Prize winning ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ is now considered a modern classic, a stunning portrayal of the severe drought and Depression that decimated the United States prairie lands during the 1930s. Citied by the Nobel Committee as one of the major reasons Steinbeck won the coveted award back in 1962, there has only been on feature film made out of the book since its 1939 release – and it’s also considered a timeless masterpiece.

Though John Ford’s take on ‘Grapes’ differed slightly from the book (especially the last half), it did end up winning the director an Oscar, as well as nabbing an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress (Jane Darwell). Film fans also love Henry Fonda’s portrayal of the main character, Tom Joad, a recently released convict who must help his struggling family make the long journey to California. For the longest time, the rights to the property were tied up with the author’s relatives. Now, according to, King of the Blockbusters Steven Spielberg has swept in and won the ability to make a new motion picture out of the book.

Discovering that the Steinbeck Estate was putting the title up for translation, the American auteur stepped in and outbid several others to secure the rights. While initial reports had him directing, DreamWorks is now stating that he is only interested in the role of producer. Indeed, Spielberg is set to helm ‘American Sniper‘ with Bradley Cooper in the lead this year, and with the 75th Anniversary arriving in 2014, he’s apparently too busy to sit behind the ‘Grapes’ lens. Another obstacle may be Fox. The studio long lost the domestic option on Ford’s film, but still holds the foreign distribution rights to the title. Something will probably have to be worked out with them before the new movie version sees the light of day.


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