I wasn’t going to post this because it sounded so ridiculous that I thought it had to be a joke but after seeing major publications pick this up, I guess this ludicrous story has some merit. Harriet 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. Yep, Caucasian Julia Roberts.
Here is what Howard said during a Q & A published earlier this month: “I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman. 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.’”
Now, let’s just say this was said merely as a joke during a meeting. Even if that was the case, it’s still a tone-deaf thing to say & honestly not far off from what Hollywood can be capable of. Remember when Emma Stone was cast as a character who is meant to be of one-quarter Chinese and one-quarter Hawaiian descent in Aloha? Or when the casting of Caucasian actors, particularly Scarlett Johansson, drew accusations of racism and whitewashing in the United States upon the release of Ghost in the Shell? I guess it isn’t too far off base that a studio exec would suggest Roberts as Tubman.
As we know now, Cynthia Erivo plays her in the film which also caused minor controversy because, while she’s African American, she’s also British so that started its own minor debate before the film was released. Erivo is getting some Oscar buzz for the role & the film is doing decent box office so everything has worked out in the long run. - 2 minutes ago