Julia Roberts as Harriet Tubman? 'Harriet' screenwriter claims studio exec thought she would suit the role perfectly
'Harriet Tubman' the Black save-turned-abolitionist whose life has been translated to the screen in the historical drama 'Harriet' may have been played by a totally different actress.
The role of 'Harriet' could have been played by none other than Julia Roberts had one studio executive had his way. According to the screenwriter of the film, Gregory Allen Howard, who had first started to work on the movie in 1994 revealed that one studio executive thought that Julia Roberts was perfect for the role.
During a Q&A round with Howard via the Harriet Studio Focus Features, Howard remembered how "the climate in Hollywood … was very different" around 25 years ago". As reported by EW, Howard shared, "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 continued. However, Roberts was not cast as Tubman. Howard added, "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."
He also recalled why he decided to choose actress Cynthia Erivo to play an African American activist. Howard revealed how he had seen her in her award-winning performance in the film 'The Color Purple' and was convinced that she was absolutely perfect to play the role of Tubman.
"As soon as she opened her mouth, I thought, 'Yes, that’s Harriet'. Afterward, I emailed the other producers, 'That’s Harriet. She’s a little stick of dynamite'."
The movie was directed by Kasi Lemmons and also stars Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monae.