1. It’s based on a true story
The tale of To Kill A Mockingbird is based on Harper Lee’s memories of her family, her neighbours and an event that occurred near her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama when she was just 10. Atticus and Jem are both inspired by her father and older brother.
2. Harper Lee was good friends with Truman Capote
The two writers grew up next door to each other in Monroeville, where Truman stayed in summers with his aunts. As you might have guessed if you know the story, the character of Dill is based on him! Harper also accompanied Truman when he travelled around America researching his famous true crime novel In Cold Blood.
3. Harper Lee studied law
Harper studied law at the University of Alabama from 1945-1949. Her father, Amasa Coleman Lee, was also a lawyer. No wonder she was able to write a court case in such technical detail.
4. It’s the book most librarians think you should read
To Kill A Mockingbird often comes at the top of polls about important books, lifechanging books and books that made change. But did you know that it came top in a World Book Day poll of British librarians asked “which book should every adult read before they die?”
5. She was told not to expect much
Harper Lee’s publishers told her that she should only expect to sell a few thousand copies when the book first went to print. It has now sold more than 40 million copies, been translated into more than 40 languages and has never been out of print since 1960.
6. This is not the fist stage adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird
Aaron Sorkin’s stage adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird opened in the West End in March 2022 at the Gielgud Theatre, having transferred from a successful Broadway run starring Jeff Daniels and Gbenga Akinnagbe. But the first play adaptation opened in Monroeville in 1990. That version, written by Christopher Sergel, has even made it over to the UK, in Leeds in 2006, York in 2011 and even at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre where it starred Robert Sean Leonard as Atticus Finch.
7. The play is performed in Monroeville every year
Every year in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, the 1990 play is put on in the county courthouse grounds, with a cast of townspeople. White male audience members are “called for jury duty” at the interval to sit in the seats of the jury and the scenes set in the courtroom are played out in the Monroe Country Courthouse.
8. It was nearly called something different
To Kill A Mockingbird was not the first title in the mix! The book was nearly called ‘Atticus’ after one of its main characters, and originally called ‘Go Set A Watchman’ – the title of the book often considered a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird that was actually Harper Lee’s first draft of the novel.
9. It’s won a lot of awards
The book won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961, when the book was enjoying its 41st week on the bestseller list. The 1962 film was also very well received, winning the Oscar for Best Screenplay, Best Art Direction and Best Actor for Gregory Peck’s Atticus. Mary Badham, who played Scout, was the youngest ever actress to be nominated at the time at only 10. Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation – the one which is currently playing on the West End – was nominated for 9 Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway, and Cellia Keenan-Bolger won the Tony, Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for her performance as Scout.
10. The new production broke Broadway Box Office records
Aaron Sorkin’s production was so hotly anticipated that it amassed more than $22 million in advance ticket sales. It broke a century old record in the week ending December 23, taking in $1,586,946 at the box office at the Shubert Theatre, the highest gross of any Broadway play in the Shubert Organization’s 118-year history.