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. 

Quibi Is Doing A ‘Princess Bride’ Remake Of Sorts Starring Sophie Turner And Joe Jonas

Entertainment

Quibi Is Doing A ‘Princess Bride’ Remake Of Sorts Starring Sophie Turner And Joe Jonas

20th Century Fox

Inconceivable?

Just when we thought the ‘80s classic The Princess Bride was untouchable in terms of facing a remake, Quibi decided to take it on amid the current pandemic. According to The New York Post, the American short-form mobile video platform is going DIY with the beloved film. The celeb-studded film will see the stars use their phones to film and edit the series. The homemade fan film will premiere exclusively on the platform and will debut two chapters at a time.

“Game Of Thrones” star Sophie Turner and her husband Joe Jonas are set to play the lead romantic couple… with a twist.

Turner will take on the role of lovestruck Westley while Jonas will take on Princess Buttercup. Joining the couple is an all-star cast that includes Beanie Feldstein, Zazie Beetz, Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine, Keegan-Michael Key, Tiffany Haddish. Actor Fred Savage, who played the role of The Grandson in the original film, will also return, this time as… The Grandson. So it will most certainly be funny.

“The actors will trade-off roles throughout scenes, each paying homage to The Princess Bride in their own unique way,” the New York Post reported about the fan-made film. The outlet also revealed that in order to keep up with scenes that require crowds, they’ll use Legos and stuffed animals.

Turns out COVID-19 inspires creativity?

Fortunately, this reboot has a pretty great purpose other than staving off boredom.

Quibi has pledged to donate $1 million in honor of the homemade fan-made film to give to World Central Kitchen, an organization striving to provide meals to those in need during the pandemic.

The first chapter of this quirky project is set to debut on June 29.

Actress On ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ Calls Out The Fashion Industry For Using BLM As A Trend On Social Media

Fierce

Actress On ‘A Black Lady Sketch Show’ Calls Out The Fashion Industry For Using BLM As A Trend On Social Media

Graham Denholm / Getty

Fashion consumers are calling out designer brands for their recent displays of Black imagery on their social media pages in light of the Black Lives Matter protests. Of course, representation is appreciated, but a recent post about “Shrill” actress Niccole Thurman is pointing out that such displays should not be treated as Fashion trends.

In a series of tweets shared with her Instagram page, Thurman held the fashion industry accountable.

Calling out the fashion industry for their past exclusion of Black people and people of color, Thurman tweeted a string of emojis, featuring white faces. Sparsely sprinkled into the white faces were a few images of Black emojis and other emojis representing people of color. Thurman captioned the image writing “every Fashion Instagram page looking like.”

Speaking about the fashion industry’s current display of Black models in their social feeds in relation to the global protests that have broken out across the country in response to the recent death of George Floyd. “Feel like this tweet will get me yelled at somehow, so let me just say I’m GLAD to see more beautiful black women in my feed,” Thurman followed up her tweet writing. “It’s just THEY’VE BEEN THERE. THEY’VE *BEEN* BEAUTIFUL. Why’re brands just now seeing them? Don’t think we’re not going to check in on you a month from now.”

Users on Twitter and Instagram were quick to applaud Thurman’s point.

Many people who saw Thurman’s emoji illustration agreed with its sentiment. “Yeees!! And every goddamn photographer (nature photographer aside) I follow probably frantically searched their picture archive for that one shot of a black model they have to post last week, like “Look! I’m good! I take pictures of black people once in a while!!” a user by the name of @LoveCrimeCat wrote in response to the tweet while another remarked that ‘It’s only a matter of time until they go back to regular programming. I hope not but for some of these brands, it’s all performance.’ 

Another user took the time to lambast the fashion industry for “It’s the truth. Half the time the clothes are cut to fit white model better. The only one who really had more models of color on their runways shows was people like Thierry Mugler before he became Manfred.”

In regards to this story, Mitú has reached out to Thurman and is waiting for a comment.