Julia Roberts Was Reportedly A Studio Executive’s First Choice To Play Harriet Tubman

In a 30 Rock joke come to life, a studio executive reportedly suggested that Julia Roberts should play abolitionist Harriet Tubman in a movie. If, for some reason, you don’t understand why that is problematic, I’ll let Deadline explain it: “The Oscar-winning actress, who is white, looks nothing like Tubman, who was black.” Not great.

The revelation was made by Harriet writer Gregory Allen Howard in the Los Angeles Times. “Picture 1994: ‘This is a great script. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman,’ said the then-president of a studio sublabel,” he wrote. “Fortunately, there was a single black person in that studio meeting 25 years ago who told him that Harriet Tubman was a black woman. The president replied, ‘That was so long ago. No one will know that.’ Thus began the epic 25-year journey of getting my Harriet Tubman script to the screen.” Harriet came out this month with Cynthia Erivo, not the star of Notting Hill, in the lead role, but it wasn’t an easy journey. Allen Howard credited two films for changing “the environment in Hollywood,” as he put it: 12 Years a Slave and Black Panther.

“It still took a few years more to get it made — packages fell apart, financing fell out, talent dropped out — but the important thing is there was no longer hostility to the idea. And out of this sea change came not only Harriet but the movie that ushered in this new era: Black Panther. It’s no accident that Harriet went into production nine months after the release of Black Panther. (Via)

Things are bad in Hollywood, but at least they’re not “Julia Roberts as Killmonger” bad.

(Via the Los Angeles Times)