In a recent Q&A, screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard talked about his 26-year journey getting the biopic Harriet to the big screen. He said that then Hollywood was a different place,
“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.'”
British actress Cynthia Erivo eventually got the role of the legendary abolitionist and freedom fighter in the film, which is in theaters now. A Brit actress in the role of an African-American slave has also been criticized.
The cast also includes Janelle Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr., Jennifer Nettles, Joe Alwyn and Clarke Peters.
Howard says he’s always thought Tubman’s story was extraordinary,
“Harriet was bigger than life. Harriet freeing slaves had a multiplying effect … Harriet showed them how powerful they could become.”
Tubman escaped from slavery and helped hundreds of slaves find freedom during the US Civil War era through the Underground Railroad, changing the course of American history.
(Photos, Focus Features, Avalon; via CNN)