Harriet Writer Says Studio Exec Suggested Julia Roberts To Play Tubman

Julia Roberts Harriet Tubman

CREDIT Matt Baron BEI Shutterstock Universal History Archive UIG Shutterstock

No one will know that'.

In an official publicity Q&A to promote Harriet, which is released this month, the film's screenwriter and producer, Gregory Allen Howard, said that when the film was in its planning stages 25 years earlier, "the climate in Hollywood ... was very different".

Tubman escaped from slavery and helped hundreds of slaves find freedom during the US Civil War era through the Underground Railroad, changing the course of American history.

According to Entertainment Weekly, Gregory Allen Howard says that when he first started working on the movie in 1994, one studio executive suggested Julia Roberts portray Harriet Tubman.

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Others argued that the incident might very well have happened.

Howard did not name the executive in the interview, and it's not clear if anyone actually approached Roberts about the role. The president replied, "That was so long ago".

Am I glad that Julia Roberts didn't play Harriet Tubman?

Howard, who also wrote "Remember the Titans" and "Ali", pointed to the instance as an example of the obstacles he faced trying to sell a script about an African American heroine in an industry dominated by white men.

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Fortunately, there was a single black person in that studio meeting 25 years ago who told him that Harriet Tubman was a black woman. The British actress is incredible in the role; critics have widely praised her performance, and even Howard himself said he knew immediately upon meeting her in a casting call that Erivo was the ideal person to play such a significant character.

Howard said it was his first Hollywood assignment and that it had been in development for 26 years. But the project came together around Erivo, a casting choice some have criticized because she isn't American.

Julia Roberts arrives at the "Homecoming" FYC Event on Sunday, May 5, 2019 in Los Angeles Angeles.

If there's one thing that separated this latest casting controversy, however, it's that the actress at its center seemingly had nothing to do with stirring it up.

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There were Twitter fans who genuinely believed the alleged studio executive may have been oblivious as to who Tubman was.

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