Entertainment

A Studio Executive Wanted Julia Roberts To Play Harriet Tubman In A Biopic

Gregory Allen Howard, the screenwriter, and producer of Harriet, a historical drama based on Harriet Tubman’s life starring Cynthia Erivo, said in 1994 when he began working on the project, a studio executive wanted Julia Roberts to take on the title role. 

The obvious issue being that Harriet Tubman is one of the most celebrated black women in American history — she almost made it on the twenty-dollar bill before Donald Trump came along — and Roberts is a white woman. The executive didn’t think anyone would notice. 

Allen recalled in a Q&A how different Hollywood was 25 years ago when he first began writing Harriet.

“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 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.’”

Howard retold the story in a recent essay for the Los Angeles Times. He noted that there was a sole black person in the room when the incident happened.

“Fortunately, there was a single black person in that studio meeting 25 years ago who told him that Harriet Tubman was a black woman,” Howard wrote. “The president replied, ‘That was so long ago. No one will know that.’”

It’s no surprise it would take Howard 25 years to get his Harriot Tubman script told the way he wanted. The screenwriter credited the recent blockbusters starring black icons for paving the way for his film to finally get 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.

Tubman lived a full life despite being born into slavery. She died at 90 years old, a free woman having liberated at least 700 slaves, and as an America hero. Harriet took her last breath in 1913, thus the idea that viewers wouldn’t remember her is moot. 

Many Twitter users of color took this anecdote as an opportunity to lament about Hollywood’s constant white-washing.

Sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen shared four photos in response. One of Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Afro-Cuban Mariane Pearl, Mike Meyers as an Indian guru, Jake Gyllenhaal as a Persian, and Johnny Depp as a Native American. All are white characters playing a different race, while opportunities and roles for people of those races remain few and far between. 

“Julie Roberts as Harriet Tubman? Rebel Wilson is writing and producing a teen K-pop movie. Meanwhile, me and my friends can’t put two nickels together to get our indy features made or seen,” another user commented. 

Some users roasted the scenario by putting images of Julia Roberts on twenty-dollar bills or claiming they could possibly play Roberts in a film despite being a person of color. 

“I just heard that Chiwetel Ejiofor only got the part in 12 Years a Slave because Julia Roberts turned it down. Damn,” another user joked. 

Jordan Crucchiola, the associate editor of Vulture, decided to look on the bright side: an incident like this should stop anyone’s imposter syndrome short. 

“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,” Crucchiola wrote on Twitter. 

Howard documented his struggle to get Harriet made in his LA Times essay.

https://twitter.com/RoxyCottenCandy/status/1197228986977284096

Howard is perhaps best known for writing the screenplay for Disney’s Remember the Titans, but Harriet was always his passion project. 

“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,” Howard told Focus Features.

The screenwriter suggested that Hollywood executives were unable to see stories about black people or starring black leads as profitable. 

“The number of doors slammed in my face, the number of passes, the number of unreturned phone calls, canceled meetings, abandonments, racist rejections, the number of producing partners who bailed, are too many to list,” Howard wrote. “And later I foolishly used my status as a commercial screenwriter to get meetings and then sneaked in a pitch for Harriet Tubman’s story. Bait and switch.” 

With marginalized voices breaking barriers in Hollywood, Howard was finally able to get his film made. 

“As someone who has been in this business for decades, I am enjoying the warmth of the Hollywood climate change, and the diverse stories that are bathing in that sunlight, happy that Harriet’s other journey is now finally complete,” he wrote. 

A Fan Asked Eva Mendes Why She Hasn’t Acted In Years And She Says It’s Because She Isn’t Settling For Any Role

Entertainment

A Fan Asked Eva Mendes Why She Hasn’t Acted In Years And She Says It’s Because She Isn’t Settling For Any Role

evamendes / Instagram

This year’s Golden Globes awards were a complete letdown for a variety of reasons. Aside from the typical #SoWhite nonsense and long speeches, people were astonished at the lack of Latinas on the red carpet. We counted four: Jennifer Lopez, Ana de Armas, Sofia Vergara, and Salma Hayek. Depressing right? We know there are more Latinas in Hollywood, but where are they? At least one of the most recognized Latina actresses is explaining why she hasn’t acted in years. 

A fan recently asked Eva Mendes on Instagram when she’ll be in a new movie. Mendes responded by saying she won’t settle for any project partly because of her daughters. 

Credit: evamendes / Instagram

On Jan. 7, Mendes responded to a fan on Instagram when she asked her,  “When the fans going to see u in some new movies?” Mendes told her kindly that she isn’t offered roles that are good enough for her. 

“Hi! When there’s something worthwhile to be a part of,” she wrote on Instagram. “As a mother now, there are many roles I won’t do. There are many subject matters that I don’t want to be involved with, so it limits my choices, and I’m fine with that. I have to set an example for my girls now. But no worry, I got some side hustles. Ha! Thanks for asking. All the best for 2020.”

Mendes’s most recent role was the 2014 film Lost River directed and written by her baby daddy, Ryan Gosling. Things certainly changed for Mendes when she met Gosling in 2011.

The two first met while filming the 2012 movie, “The Place Beyond the Pines.” There was no denying the chemistry between the two in “The Place Beyond the Pines.” It was an extraordinary film about a Luke (Gosling) who doubles as a bank robber and motorcyclist. He meets Romina (Mendes), the two fall in love, and have a baby. Domestic life isn’t for Luke, and he cannot escape his crime-ridden life. We won’t give any spoilers, but it truly felt like we were witnessing a real-life love story.

Mendes is now the mother of two girls and has gone on to launch her fashion collection with New York & Company and has been busy with that for several years now.

Credit: evamendes / Instagram

While Mendes continues to lead a pretty private life with Gosling and her daughters, her fashion collection has been successful. She has also said that her partner has been very encouraging and proud of her work as a designer. 

“Ryan is incredibly supportive, and he’s always in awe,” Mendes told People magazine last year. “He makes me realize that [making the collection] is actually a lot of work. I have so much fun doing it that I don’t really realize.”

She also added that her in-laws and her family are extremely helpful to her as she develops each collection. 

“Ryan’s mom, Ryan’s sister, my mom, my sisters, my grandma are all my fashion guinea pigs,” Mendes told the magazine. “Nobody is going to be more honest than family, and our family is very honest. It’s something I really appreciate because when designing something, you need real feedback.”

Yet, still, with her success as a fashion designer, we cannot help miss Mendes as an actor. Remember her in “Training Day”?

Her role as Sara opposite Denzel Washington was so intense and incredibly raw. We can see why she would hesitate to be in certain kinds of characters, especially if the part calls for nudity or vulgar language. The role of Sara is also one that we have seen often, which is the stereotypical Latina as a single mother, living in the projects. That has been played out. That movie, however, was how we first learned of Mendes. 

She stretched her comedy chops in “The Other Guys” in 2010 alongside Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell. 

That movie was hilarious, and she was amusing as the wife of Will Ferrell. Then again, that role was of a sexy (but smart) Latina who could whip of a home-cooked meal and be stunning all at the same time. Mendes can play the ultimate woman because she is a lot of ways. However, we understand she wants to break away from that notion that all Latinas are curvy, sexy, and feisty. 

Her Instagram is always active, so it makes us feel like Mendes hasn’t gone anywhere.

Credit: evamendes / Instagram

But we still miss you on the big screen, Eva. Come back!!

READ: Here Are 9 Latinos Who Have Become Triple Threats In The Entertainment Industry

An Ancient Mayan Book That Was Discovered By Archeologist Is Being Called The Oldest Book In The Americas

Culture

An Ancient Mayan Book That Was Discovered By Archeologist Is Being Called The Oldest Book In The Americas

hyperallergic / Instagram

Something pretty exciting is happening in Mexico. Yes, the Popocatépetl is erupting again. All of that volcanic activity is ejecting new life into the old world of Aztec and Mayan civilization. As you may recall, archeologists recently discovered a thousand-year-old Mayan palace located 63 miles west Cancún in Yucatán, Mexico. Before that, the  National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) also found hundreds of archaeological artifacts nearby the Yucatán that, as experts put it, contain “invaluable information related to the formation and fall of the ancient City of Water Sorcerers, and who were the founders of this iconic site.” This year a new study confirmed that a gold bar found in 1981 in a Mexico City park was part of the Aztec treasure that was stolen by Hernan Cortes and the Spanish conquistadors 500 years ago. It feels like our ancestors are trying to tell us something. 

After decades of research, experts concluded in 2016 that a book they found years ago, in fact, is a 900-year-old authentic astronomy guide from the Mayan period. The book is called the Grolier Codex, and archaeologists say this is the oldest book found in the Americas.

Credit: hyperallergic / Instagram

One of the reasons the authenticity was always questioned is due to the backstory of how the book was found in the first place. According to ArsTechnica, the Grolier Codex was found by a Mexican collector named Josué Sáenz in 1966. Sáenz said that “a group of unknown men offered to sell the book to him, along with a few other items found “in a dry cave” near the foothills of the Sierra de Chiapas.” 

What made this book even more fascinating, yet troubling, was that Sáenz said the men told him if he took the book, he wouldn’t be able to show it to anyone. Others then told Sáenz that the book was a fake, but did allow archaeologist Michael Coe to show the book in New York. He later would give the book to the Mexican government.

The 10-page book is said to be an insightful guide into astronomy and how the Mayans kept track of the sun and the planets. It was their early forms of calendar-keeping.

Credit: kushkatan / Instagram

ArsTechnica said the book was written during trying times — the late Mayan period. Brown University social scientist Stephen Houston described how each picture in the book offered critical information that Mayans needed for day-to-day duties. 

The images are of “workaday gods, deities who must be invoked for the simplest of life’s needs: sun, death, K’awiil—a lordly patron and personified lightning—even as they carry out the demands of the ‘star’ we call Venus. [The Dresden and Madrid Codices] both elucidate a wide range of Maya gods, but in Grolier, all is stripped down to fundamentals,” Houston said. 

What’s also fascinating about the timing of the book’s confirmation is that Michael Coe, the Yale anthropologist, who decoded the text, died last year at the age of 90.

Credit: kushkatan / Instagram

The New York Times wrote in his obit that Coe was instrumental at deciphering Mayan code and giving the Mayans credit for their work when many wrote off the images as just that. 

In “Breaking the Maya Code” (1992), he theorized that anthropologists had never given the Maya adequate credit for their linguistic advances because of what he called ‘quasi-racism,’ or an ‘unwillingness to grant the brown-skinned Maya a culture as complex as that of Europe, China or the Near East.'”

As we previously noted, a more recent discovery was made just this week. A gold bar that was found in a park in Mexico City in 1981 was finally determined to be an authentic Aztec treasure.

Credit: National Institute of Anthropology and History

It’s quite fascinating to see that just because artifacts are found, doesn’t necessarily mean they can be authenticated by archeologists with a snap of a finger. Their research takes years, sometimes decades. 

The National Institute of Anthropology and History said they used special equipment to research the gold bar including an X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) which is “a proven multi-elemental technique of high sensitivity, non-destructive, non-invasive and extremely fast.” 

With so many recent discoveries, we can only imagine what other types of treasures are still buried underneath the ancient lands of Mexico.

READ: Mexico’s Popocatépetl Volcano Erupted And Now People Think The World Is Coming To An End