Gibran’s “The Prophet” has been on college students’ dorm bookshelves for generations, helping to make the 1923 collection of poetic essays a classic. Canton-raised siblings Rob Shalhoub and Grace Shalhoub Yazbek wrote the screenplay for “Gibran,” a feature-length biopic scheduled to begin filming in 2014.
“I spent 25 years in Boston and never really knew one of the most famous artists I revered traveled the same footsteps,” said Shalhoub, 34.
Born in Northern Lebanon, Gibran and his family moved to Boston’s South End when he was 12. The city became a home base for much of his adult life.
“We’ve spent so much time in the actual places he spent time in, Chinatown and West Roxbury,” Shalhoub said. “It was so familiar to me going back and seeing these places. This is a story that needs to be told,” Shalhoub told the Herald during a phone interview from Los Angeles. As Lebanese-Americans, Shalhoub Yazbek said Gibran’s teachings and stories were a staple.
“The subject has always been very inspiring. We grew up hearing stories about him,” said Shalhoub Yazbek, 40, from her home in Beirut. “We could identify with him living between two worlds.”
Independent film producer William Nix (“Return to Afghanistan”) snapped up the script after it was nominated for best original screenplay at the European Independent Film Festival this year. Filming locations are being scouted, and Boston tops the list.
Nix said the duo are the right people to tell the story. “They have a lot of Gibran’s perspective,” Nix said.
Helping guide the team is Jean Gibran, wife of the poet’s cousin, the late Boston sculptor Kahlil Gibran. She and her husband co-authored a biography of the elder Gibran, “Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World.”
The project also fulfills a personal mission for Shalhoub and Shalhoub Yazbek.
“We made a pact with each other that we would steer our careers toward film. We had to make films with Arab or Arab American heroes to foster a bridge between East and West,” Shalhoub said.
Both said there is no better emissary than Gibran.
“(His) main message through his art and writing is unity and diversity. If there is ever a time we feel the world needs to feel more unified or celebrate each others’ differences it would be now. Everything just feels so polarizing,” Shalhoub said.