Everett Collection
Jeff Labrecque
July 03, 2013 AT 04:47 PM EDT

Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks are in early discussions to acquire the rights to John Steinbeck’s classic Depression-era novel, The Grapes of Wrath. A representative for Spielberg confirmed a Deadline report that the Oscar-winning director of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan is interested in the project, but only in a producer capacity. He would not direct. The novel was famously adapted by John Ford in 1940, with Henry Fonda starring as Tom Joad, the ex-con who tries to help his poor family as they flee the Dust Bowl for a better life in California.

The rights issues are complicated, however, with the Steinbeck estate and Fox, which released the 1940 film, sharing domestic and foreign distribution rights to any subsequent remake. Spielberg’s rep reiterated that it’s still very early in the process, and that there was “nothing more than discussions at this point.”

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