‘Harriet’ Screenwriter Says A Hollywood Exec Wanted Julia Roberts To Play Harriet Tubman

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Have you ever read something so ridiculous that you know it has to be fake? Well, surprisingly this is not one of those. A Hollywood studio executive once suggested white actress Julia Roberts play iconic abolitionist #HarrietTubman in a biopic. This revelation came from “Harriet” screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard, the Hollywood Reporter reports.

In a recent interview, Howard was asked about the production history of the movie that was a long time in the making, “Harriet. Howard said it was his first Hollywood assignment and that it had been in development for about 26 years. 

“I wanted to turn Harriet Tubman’s life, which I’d studied in college, into an action-adventure movie. The climate in Hollywood, however, was very different back then. I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.’”

Howard added that when someone pointed out to the executive that Roberts, in fact, could not be Harriet, the executive reportedly responded by saying, “It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.”

And thankfully, the studio knew better than to listen to that person. Howard said that the production of Harriet was actually helped by the recent success of Black films and features with Black themes and actors.

“Two films really changed the climate in Hollywood to allow ‘Harriet’ to be made. 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,” Howard said.

“Harriet” stars British actress Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman and tells her story about how she rescued people born into slavery using the Underground Railroad.

The film also stars Janelle Monae, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters and Vanessa Bell Calloway. 

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