This suggestion occurred at a time when Julia Roberts was considered to be America’s sweetheart, after her starring roles in Steel Magnolias, Pretty Woman and The Pelican Brief.
What We Know:
- Screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard said that he started working on the film in 1994 and that one executive suggested Julia Roberts play the slave turned abolitionist. “I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman. 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,'” Howard said.
- In an interview with Focus Features, Howard mentioned how different the climate of the film industry was 25 years ago. Fast forward to 2019, the screenwriter’s film about the abolitionist who led many slaves to freedom via the Underground Railroad is now out in theaters.
- Howard said two films, such as 12 Years A Slave and Black Panther, helped change the game of representation, and also helped bring his film to reality.
- Another thing that was criticized about the film, was the casting of Black British actress Cynthia Erivo. The reason behind the controversy was because Erivo wasn’t considered to be black enough for the role of Harriet.
- Despite Erivo’s controversy, Howard gave insight into why he chose Erivo. “I first saw her when the other producers flew me to New York to see her in The Color Purple…As soon as she opened her mouth, I thought, ‘Yes, that’s Harriet.’ Afterward, I emailed the other producers, ‘That’s Harriet. She’s a little stick of dynamite,’” Howard said.
- Tubman’s story had various stages. Viola Davis was once set to produce and star in the film. The current film is directed by Kasi Lemmons and also stars Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monae.
Another notable film Howard worked on that dealt with race relations was Remember the Titans starring Denzel Washington.