Julia Roberts Was Movie Exec’s Choice To Play Harriet Tubman
Listen, ok, we’ve been subjected to all types of white foolishness in our lifetime, but never in our melanin-rich lives did we ever think that we would have to deal with this.
If you were to write down a list of 1000 actresses who were least likely to play slavery abolitionist Harriet Tubman, you STILL wouldn’t come up with Julia f**king Roberts.
However, the porcelain-skinned actress was a movie studio executive’s number one pick to play the leader of the underground railroad. Harriet screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard told Focus Features the story in a recent interview about the 26 years that it took to get his film made:
Harriet, which was set up at Disney 26 years ago, was my first assignment. When I got in the business, I wanted to tell these historical stories by turning them into entertainment. I didn’t want to give history lessons. 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.” 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.” Two films really changed the climate in Hollywood to allow Harriet to be 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.
Julia f**king Roberts.
Suffice to say Twitter is having a good time guffawing at this absurd notion. But seriously, even back in the 90s, how devilish is it to think that Black audiences would happily accept Julia Roberts in blackface? What would the movie be called? Harriet Brockovich? Pretty Free Woman? The Pelican Briefly Enslaved? Flee Slave Love? The Runaway Bride sequel???