Unbelievably, Julia Roberts Was A Favourite To Play Harriet Tubman

‘When someone pointed out Roberts couldn’t be Harriet, the executive responded, “It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.”’

julia roberts harriet tubman

by Bonnie McLaren |
Updated on

In today's 'are you absolutely sure that happened?' news, Julia Roberts was suggested to play Harriet Tubman by one studio executive. Harriet - a historical film about the life of the slave-turned-abolitionist, stars actress Cynthia Erivo - but according to the man who wrote the film’s screenplay, one exec suggested that the Notting Hill actress should play Tubman.

Speaking during an interview with Focus Features, the distributor for Harriet, producer Gregory Allen Howard said, ‘Harriet, which was set up at Disney 26 years ago, was my first assignment. … 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.”’

He continued, ‘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.”’

The internet has responded in disbelief to the claims, with one person writing on Twitter, 'I wonder if the original version of that Notting Hill line had #JuliaRoberts saying this: "I’m just a girl standing in front a studio exec asking him to go to hell for suggesting I play Harriet Tubman.'"

The film, which hits cinemas this week, tells Tubman’s escape from slavery, before going on to free others using the Underground Railway network of safe houses.

Erivo also addressed the backlash she faced in the role, after US critics argued that a British actress shouldn’t play the role. 'I’m never gonna say that anyone’s opinion is invalid,' Eviro toldNME. 'If that’s how people feel then that’s how people feel. It is my responsibility to make sure I do my job so that if these people do end up watching it they can be pleasantly surprised.'

Harriet- which also stars Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn and Janelle Monáe - is out in UK cinemas on Friday.

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