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Julia Roberts Was Considered To Play Harriet Tubman In A 1994 Movie

Gettyimages | Rich Fury
By Lynne Versluys

A New Film About Harriet Tubman

Harriet, a new film from Focus Features starring Cynthia Erivo, has hit theaters to tell the story of Harriet Tubman. Bringing Tubman's incredible story to the screen is long overdue, and director Kasi Lemmons describes it as a different kind of "slave movie." She told Stylecaster,

"Harriet is about the search for freedom and liberation. I loved that she was willing to risk her life and to sacrifice her life for freedom, and to sacrifice her life for others to have freedom."

WHO as Harriet Tubman?!

Gettyimages | Handout

The film’s screenwriter and producer, Gregory Allen Howard, told Entertainment Weekly that he's been trying to get this film made for 25 years, and was faced with an insane request from a studio head in 1994.

"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 explained that "the climate in Hollywood … was very different" back then, but the idea of Julia Roberts as a slave turned abolitionist is truly insane.

It Took A Long Time To Get Made

Gettyimages | Shannon Finney

Edwards continued, explaining how Hollywood has made strides, but that it was still difficult to get a film with a largely black cast made, even now.

"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."

Edwards also justified casting Erivo, who is an African British actress playing an African American icon.

"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.’ Afterwards I emailed the other producers, ‘That’s Harriet. She’s a little stick of dynamite.'"

Twitter Has Thoughts

This reveal led to Twitter simultaneously getting enraged at the horrendous whitewashing of this while also making some hilarious jokes.

"I read this as 'Julia Roberts was suggested by Harriet Tubman to play studio exec' and it made more sense"

"If you’re chasing a Hollywood dream and feel doubtful you’ll ever make it, remember there are executives getting paid shit loads of money to suggest JULIA ROBERTS should play Harriet Tubman. A jar of cockroaches is more qualified than some of these people so DON’T GIVE UP."

"So... wait... was the exec expecting Julia Roberts to go full-on Blackface like Birth of a Nation OR just completely ignore the source material like Emma Stone in Aloha? I HAVE QUESTIONS!!! 🤯"

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