Published Nov 20, 2019Beloved civil activist and slavery abolitionist Harriet Tubman is finally having her story told on the big screen thanks to Kasi Lemmons's Harriet. The film stars Cynthia Erivo as Tubman, but it nearly had a much more, er, surprising star — Julia Roberts.
In a recent Q&A about the film, screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard explained that there was a time when Hollywood executives were not exactly clued in on the need to diversify casting choices.
"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," he said. "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 pushed back, suggesting that Roberts would be inappropriate for the role, the executive reportedly said, "It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference."
Fortunately, the studio decided to not follow through on that remarkably terrible idea. Harriet is in theatres now.