- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A studio executive wanted to cast actress Julia Roberts as Harriet Tubman in a biopic, a screenwriter claimed Tuesday.

Gregory Allen Howard, the screenwriter for the upcoming movie “Harriet,” told Entertainment Weekly that an unnamed studio head wanted to cast Ms. Roberts in the role of the escaped slave and abolitionist, despite not being a black actor.

“I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman,’” Mr. Allen said. “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.’”

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Mr. Howard wrote the screenplay in 1994 but wasn’t able to get it picked up until 2018. He told the Los Angeles Times that Hollywood needed to morph before he was able to make the true adaptation he wanted.

“What I realize now is that the film was not going to get made until the environment in Hollywood changed,” he wrote. “Nobody in Hollywood wants to be an outlier. Hollywood has a herd mentality. There was no herd around the story of a former slave girl who freed other slaves.

“All the people I pitched this to, submitted the script to, were asking themselves one question: ‘How do I sell this story to my boss, to a studio, to my financial partners?’ Fear chilled them.”

The movie was originally set to star Viola Davis in the titular role.


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