“I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman,’” screenwriter and producer, Gregory Allen Howard 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.’”
In what is one of the most WTF things we’ve heard in a while, Allen Howard, the producer of Harriet, a biopic based on the life of famous abolitionist Harriet Tubman stated that Julia Roberts was initially tipped to play the lead role.
“The climate in Hollywood … was very different,” Allen stated, explaining why the studio head would have said that 25 years ago.
The Guardian reports that the film was supposed to star Viola Davis in the lead role, according to reports in 2015. However, it now stars Cynthia Erivo whose performance as Tubman is generating considerable Oscar buzz.
“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 during an official publicity Q&A.
There’s no need to explain why Roberts’ casting would have been outrageously inappropriate so we won’t even try.