The closest correlation to what Lupita Nyong'o is facing with [Americanah](movie:1479156) is what Barbra Streisand experienced with YENTL (1983).
Like Nyong'o, Barbra Streisand was a phenomenon right out of the gate, with her Tony nominated role as Fanny in FUNNY GIRL leading to her winning the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, sharing that honor with Katherine Hepburn in THE LION IN WINTER (1968).
Streisand was only 26 years old, then. In 1974, Streisand acquired the screen rights to what would become YENTL when she was 32 years old.
The Polish-Jewish folklore of Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy" spoke powerfully to her and had Streisand been able to produce the movie in a timely fashion it would have been a slam dunk.
The 1970s were when the Feminist Movement had its finest hours, when movies like KLUTE (1971), CHINATOWN (1974), ALICE DOESN'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE (1976), NORMA RAE (1979) and COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER (1980) were redefining what great actresses appeared like and what qualified as worthy subjects for Major Motion Pictures. Prostitutes, waitresses and factory workers filled the Big Screen in dozens of Big Budget movies, reflecting the last burst of Blue Collar Entertainment for the masses.
The wild success of JAWS (1976), STAR WARS (1977) and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK (1981) made a literary project like YENTL financially unviable to make. Streisand was a perfectionist and would not compromise her vision on YENTL. It would be fifteen years before Streisand could get YENTL made on her terms.
Now 41 years old, Streisand made YENTL her debut film as a director and as a co-writer. No longer a starlet, she made a musical when musicals were out of fashion, when her once red-hot recording career was at a lull. YENTL made a respectable $40 million dollars. The Oscar for YENTL went to Amy Irving for Best Supporting Actress.
What happened to Streisand between 1968 and 1983 is that the zeitgeist that once made her a phenomenon had moved on. Streisand was still multi-talented but movies were no longer about quirky actresses, they were now about things that blow up real good.
Not only Streisand has seen the zeitgeist pass her by. Let us consider a few other triple threats:
DANCES WITH WOLVES (1990) grossed $184 million and brought a Best Director Oscar for Kevin Costner. As star and producer of this Passion Project, Costner's future could not have been brighter, but Costner was unable to keep on his hot streak, despite having several big hits, since.
BRAVEHEART (1995) made $75 million, which is terrific for a nearly 3 hour movie not set on the Titanic. Mel Gibson produced and starred, winning the Best Director Oscar. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (2004), which he directed and produced, personally made Gibson $200 million. Once box office gold with his LETHAL WEAPON and MAD MAX franchises, his racist rant to a police officer on a lonely stretch of highway and the most expensive divorce settlement in history to his childhood sweetheart have made this Australian a pariah in Hollywood. They're even rebooting MAD MAX without him, so, um, thanks for the memories, Mr. Gibson!
UNFORGIVEN (1992) made $100 million and MILLION DOLLAR BABY (2004) also made $100 million, which makes Clint Eastwood a two-time Oscar winner for Best Director and probably the oldest award-caliber Director ever next to John Huston. Beginning with the RAWHIDE TV show in 1958, Eastwood has been working steadily as an actor ever since, acquiring his DGA card with PLAY MISTY FOR ME (1971) as well as producing as many hits as anyone in the history of movies. Eastwood built his career brick by brick and has never mistaken special effects for story. That's why at 84 years young Eastwood remains the New Kid On The Block!
Eastwood had the script for UNFORGIVEN in 1982. but waited until he was old enough to play the lead part. This is the opposite of what happened in the Development of YENTL!
On the other hand:
Paul Haggis adapted the screenplay for MILLION DOLLAR BABY intending to direct the movie, as well. Eastwood agreed to make the movie with his Malpaso Production Company but wanted to direct it, himself. That was in January of 2004. MILLION DOLLAR BABY was released by Christmas Day in 2004, just in time for Oscar consideration. MILLION DOLLAR BABY won for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Hillary Swank) and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman). Haggis; who got his start as a staff writer for the TV sitcom THE GOLDEN GIRLS; has said that he has never seen a movie made and distributed as quickly as was MILLION DOLLAR BABY.
The usual Development Period for a movie is 10 years, so the 15 years it took for YENTL to be made into a film is not so very unusual. But for AMERICANAH to be an optimal vehicle for Lupita Nyong'o, the MILLION DOLLAR BABY production model is the one to follow!
Like Haggis, Lupita Nyong'o should go in ready to do all of the heavy lifting, but also be open to have those burdens assumed by other talented and fully-funded folks as long as AMERICANAH is made in two shakes of a lamb's tail!
Sometimes you've just got to go for it! :D