'Harriet': How Julia Roberts 'Lost' Lead Role To Nigeria’s Cynthia Erivo
Over 20 years ago, Julia Roberts was pitched to play the lead role in ‘Harriet’ but it didn’t pull through until 2017 when Nigeria’s Cynthia Erivo got the role.
In an interview, Gregory Allen Howard, the screenwriter for ‘Harriet’ said Julia Roberts was first pitched to play the lead role but she lost the opportunity to British actress of Nigerian origin, Cynthia Onyedinmanasu Chinasaokwu Erivo after 26 years.
Howard said it was his first Hollywood assignment and that it had been in development for 26 years. “I wanted to turn Harriet Tubman’s life, which I’d studied in college, into an action-adventure movie.
The climate in Hollywood, however, was very different back then. I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, “This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.”“
Continuing on how Erivo got the role, Howard said the first time she saw and heard Erivo speak, he knew, ‘The Color Purple’ star is the best fit for the role of Harriet Tubman.
“I first saw her when the other producers flew me to New York to see her in The Color Purple. As soon as she opened her mouth, I thought, “Yes, that’s Harriet.” Afterward, I emailed the other producers, “That’s Harriet. She’s a little stick of dynamite,”” the scribe said.
‘Harriet’ is directed by Kasi Lemmons and features Cynthia Erivo as Harriet Tubman. The film also features Janelle Monae, Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Clarke Peters, and Vanessa Bell Calloway.
Harriet Tubman was an American abolitionist and political activist. Born into slavery, Tubman escaped and subsequently made some 13 missions to rescue approximately 70 enslaved people, including family and friends, using the network of antislavery activists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad.