Could you ever imagine Julia Roberts portraying Harriet Tubman?
‘Harriet’, the historical drama based on Tubman’s life released earlier this month, stars Cynthia Erivo., but it’s now been revealed that a studio executive suggested Julia Roberts would be perfect to portray the legendary slave turned abolitionist.
No. This is not a joke!
Entertainment Weekly reveals that an entertainment executive for the Harriet film had a weird suggestion for the lead in the film.
Gregory Allen Howard, the screenwriter and producer for the film, revealed during a Q&A published earlier this month by Harriet studio Focus Features (and reiterated in an L.A. Times essay published Tuesday), that when he first started working on the movie in 1994 Julia Roberts was suggested to play the role of Harriet Tubman.
“I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman,’” Allen explained.
“When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.’”
Clearly Roberts was not cast as Tubman, but the fact that she was even a suggestion has me giving Hollyweird the side-eye!
Allen reveals that it took nearly 10 years to develop the movie and says he gives thanks to two groundbreaking films that changed the game and made it possible.
“When 12 Years a Slave became a hit and did a couple hundred million dollars worldwide, I told my agent, ‘You can’t say this kind of story won’t make money now.’ Then Black Panther really blew the doors open,” Allen said.
The writer, who’s also behind acclaimed movies Remember the Titans and Ali, also discussed why he chose Erivo, a British African actress, to play the African American activist.
“I first saw her when the other producers flew me to New York to see her in The Color Purple,” Allen said. “As soon as she opened her mouth, I thought, ‘Yes, that’s Harriet.’ Afterwards I emailed the other producers, ‘That’s Harriet. She’s a little stick of dynamite.’”
Tubman’s story went through various stages of development in Hollywood before finally making it to the screen. Viola Davis was set to produce and star in such a biopic at one point.
The new movie, directed by Kasi Lemmons, also stars Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Mona.