Scarlett Johansson woke up this morning and was fuming after seeing that Julia Roberts trended last night because it was revealed that Julia had been one Hollywood executive’s first choice to play black slavery abolitionist, Harriet Tubman. Well, I have good news for you, Scarlett. This actually happened a long time ago. I’m sure now you were second choice after Cynthia Erivo. Next time!
Scarlett Johansson and Emma Stone aren’t the only white women who can convincingly play an ethnicity–so thinks Hollywood, at least. Harriet tells the story of the OG activist who escaped slavery and then freed many others using the Underground Railroad. So obviously this highly important figure in American black history could only be played by one woman. Julia Roberts.
Variety says that screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard did a Q&A for the movie with the LA Times. He explained he had been working on this biopic for almost 25 years, but said getting the movie made was an issue because “the climate in Hollywood… was very different back then.” Obviously not too different, my friend.
He said that a “then-president” of some sublabel of a studio told him how good the script was. But he also suggested that movie star Julia Roberts be the one to play Harriet. This was in a meeting. With other human witnesses. He said:
“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.””
I mean… wow. “No one will remember the Underground Railroad woman was black?” Maybe not, but that’s a testament to human intelligence, not an excuse. Gregory said that movies like 12 Years A Slave and Black Panther helped him make his movie where he turns Harriet’s life into an action movie:
“When I started on “Harriet” many people dealing with black material were writing history lessons–which I hated. I saw her story as a genre piece. I remember someone asking, “Is Harriet Tubman really supposed to be a superhero?” That’s exactly what I wanted–to make her story accessible to a mass audience.”
Can’t wait to see Harriet Tubman smash the Hulk into submission before snapping Thanos to dust. That’s what happened in the 1850s, right? And next up from Hollywood: catch Millie Bobby Brown in the biopic of Simone Biles.
Here’s the trailer for Harriet: