Studio Exec Wanted Julia Roberts To Play African American Activist Harriet Tubman

Screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen recently revealed one of the most outlandish suggestions when it came to casting for the historical drama based on the life of African American activist Harriet Tubman.

In the leadup to Allen's film 'Harriet', Allen participated in a Q&A and wrote a piece for the LA Times about the journey to make the historic drama which began in 1994.

"I was told how one studio head said in a meeting, ‘This script is fantastic.  Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman'," Allen said in the Q&A.

Expanding on the anecdote in his LA Times piece, Allen said there was one black person in the meeting who pointed out the obvious fact that Tubman was a black woman, to which the exec responded, "That was so long ago. No one will know that."



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Abolitionist Harriet Tubman (1820 - 1913) who escaped slavery and led many other slaves to freedom using the Underground Railroad. Photo: MPI/Getty Images.

Allen went on to describe the changing environment in Hollywood, and how that change needed to happen before 'Harriet' could be made.

"Nobody in Hollywood wants to be an outlier. Hollywood has a herd mentality. There was no herd around the story of a former slave girl who freed other slaves," he wrote.

"All the people I pitched this to, submitted the script to, were asking themselves one question: 'How do I sell this story to my boss, to a studio, to my financial partners?' Fear chilled them."

Allen said that after '12 Years A Slave' won Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 2014 he saw his opportunity to once again shop around the script that he had been working on back in 1994, and eventually -- nine months after the huge box office giant 'Black Panther' hit cinemas -- 'Harriet' went into production.

Julia Roberts was obviously not considered this time around, with Cynthia Ervio starring as Tubman -- the abolitionist who escaped slavery and became one of the most famous conductors of the Underground Railroad, helping guide more than 300 slaves to freedom.

Featured image: Getty Images.