Gregory Allen Howard, the screenwriter of ‘Harriet’ has opened up that a Harriet Tubman biopic was almost produced 25-years-ago. Although this sounds like exciting news, he also made the shocking revelation that a studio executive had no idea that Tubman was black and even suggested Hollywood sweetheart, Julia Roberts for the role of Tubman.
Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.
Writing about the new film in a Los Angeles Times, 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.”
But it was his response to that simple statement of fact that would prove just how ridiculously out-of-touch at least some portions of Hollywood apparently were even as recently as 1994. According to Howard, “The president replied, ‘That was so long ago. No one will know that.’”
Considering Harriet Tubman is one of the cornerstones of American history where it relates to the institution of slavery, you’d certainly hope people know she was not a white woman, and knew it then, too.
Howard who decided to hold onto the script told Focus Features.
“When I started on ‘Harriet,’ many people dealing with black material were writing history lessons — which I hated,” “I remember someone asking, ‘Is Harriet Tubman really supposed to be a superhero?’ That’s exactly what I wanted.”
Howard’s vision is an action-adventure film with mass appeal, as opposed to one only target history aficionados, and he credits the groundbreaking success of “Black Panther” and “12 Years a Slave” for pushing the narrative forward in Hollywood as to what kinds of stories can be told with black leads.
Cynthia Erivo portrays Tubman in Howard’s “Harriet,” in theaters now.
American actress, comedian, author, and television personality. Whoopi Goldberg doesn’t have problem with Cynthia Erivo playing Harriet Tubman, despite the fact that’s she’s British.
While out in Los Angeles Wednesday, “The View” co-host weighed in on the controversy over Erivo’s casting as the famous American abolitionist.
“Well, I feel as long as she’s African, and black she might have some feel for it,” Goldberg said. “But who amongst the actors isn’t going to have to do the work? So, I’m sure there’s a lot of controversies but you know good actors are good actors.”