In an essay by the Los Angeles Times, screenwriter Gregory Alan Howard of “Harriet” detailed his 25-year effort to make a feature film biopic about Harriet Tubman – including an anecdote where a studio executive Had once suggested Julia Roberts inside to play the character of Tubman.
In an essay published on Tuesday, Howard writes that in 1994, he was working with production outfit Trilogy Entertainment, which would become “Harriet”. Through this working relationship, he was able to hand over the film to the President. An unknown “studio upsell”.
According to Howard, the president of Sablab told him, “This is a great script. Let’s allow Julia Roberts to play the role of Harriet Tubman. Tubman was an African-American former slave-abolitionist who carried out 13 campaigns in privately enslaved states that saved nearly 70 people from slavery in the years before the Civil War.
“Fortunately,” Howard said in the essay, “25 years ago there was the same black man at that studio meeting who told him that Harriet Tubman was a black woman.” Even according to Howard, an attempt was made to dismiss the anonymous studio execution. He worries, “It was so long ago. Nobody would know.”
Roberts had no involvement with the production, and no one offered him the role. Howard says that the studio eventually passed on making the film and because the trilogy was “exclusive to the studio,” they were forced to participate; Howard continued his efforts to make films over the next two and a half decades.
The final film, starring Cynthia Arrivo in the title role, was released on 1 November. 1. Directed by Kashi Lemons, who wrote the screenplay with Howard, it also features Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Kevin, and Janelle Monae.
Howard’s essay did not reveal the identity of the studio and studio execution. Trilogy representatives did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.