When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t play Tubman, the executive said, “It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.”
Harriet, the historical drama centering Tubman recently hit theaters earlier this month starring British actress Cynthia Erivo. Back in 1994 during the beginning stages of the film, Harriet‘s screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen Howard recently shared that a studio executive suggested Julia Roberts to play 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.’ 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.'”
He also shared which two movies impacted Hollywood and race in film:
“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.”
Ultimately, Erivo was selected to play Tubman. When speaking on why he selected her he said, “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.'” Kasi Lemmons, the award-winning director of Eve’s Bayou directed Harriet.
Entertainment Weekly also reports there were numerous stages of development for Harriet. At one point Viola Davis was slated to direct and star in a similar biopic. Janelle Monae, Leslie Odom Jr., and Joe Alwyn also played major characters in the 2019 film.
Source: Entertainment Weekly