Hollywood Executive Wanted Julia Roberts to Play Harriet Tubman

The latest movie, Harriet tells the story of the courageous Harriet Tubman’s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes as she freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history. The role of Harriet is played by Cynthia Chinasaokwu O. Erivo, however, a Hollywood executive had someone else in mind for the role.

In an interview with Focus Features, Harriet screenwriter, Gregory Allen Howard, explained the process of making the biopic for the last 26 years. He wanted to tell the story of Tubman’s life as a former slave who escaped and helped free more than 300 other people and turn it into an action-adventure movie. He mentions that Hollywood was a very different place when he first wrote the script 26 years ago, which is where talks of Julia Roberts came up. He revealed meeting with an unnamed Hollywood executive who said, “This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.”

Howard added that when someone told this same person that having Roberts playing Tubman would be highly offensive and inappropriate, the Hollywood executive responded, “It [slavery] was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.”

They made a good call not listening to that exec with casting Erivo as Harriet Tubman instead. Just look at how stunning she is!

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