Harriet, is a historical drama based on the journey of American abolitionist and political activist, Harriet Tubman. But the film’s screenwriter and producer, Gregory Allen Howard, says when he first started working on the movie in 1994 that one studio executive suggested Julia Roberts to portray the legendary slave turned abolitionist. Yes, that Julia Roberts.
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.’”
Thankfully, for everyone involved, Roberts was not cast as Tubman. Decades later, the film has become a reality, which Allen said is thanks to two groundbreaking films that changed the game for representation.
“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,” Allen said.
Tubman’s story has long been in various stages of development in Hollywood; Viola Davis was set to produce and star in such a biopic at one point. The new movie, directed by Kasi Lemmons, also stars Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, and Janelle Monae.