Studio Exec Once Thought Julia Roberts Would Be Perfect As Harriet Tubman

I thought about whether to post this or not because it's just so stupid and hard to believe. If you thought white-washing was a big deal now, imagine how bad it used to be before social media gave people a platform to complain about it. In the pantheon of horrible Hollywood ideas must go one idea a studio had about the casting of Harriet. Suffice it to say, a woman like Cynthia Erivo was not on their list.

In a Focus Features interview with Harriet screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard, he talks about the movie's two-decade-long journey to the big screen, and recounts a memorable 1994 meeting with a studio that thought...well, maybe a black woman wasn't right to play legendary abolitionist Harriet Tubman. What Harriet really needs is a Pretty Woman!

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

Yes, the industry was a different place back then. The country was a different place back then. HOWEVER, the idea that Roberts could ever, should ever, play Tubman is about as insulting and flat-out stupid as it gets. I dare to say Roberts would have turned that shit down, anyway, hopefully recognizing the deadweight it would be on her career forever.

Howard credits Black Panther and 12 Years a Slave for helping to change the short-sighted Hollywood narrative that black leads don't lead to big box office...

“Two films really changed the climate in Hollywood to allow ‘Harriet’ to be made. “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.”

Cultural diversity rules right now and I hope we never return to the way things used to be. Harriet is in theaters now and has some looking at Erivo as a possible Oscar contender. Roberts, you missed out.