Julia Roberts was the top choice to portray Harriet Tubman in a biopic about the slave-turned-abolitionist, according to screenwriter and producer Gregory Allen Howard.
Actress Cynthia Erivo helms the historical film Harriet, which was released earlier this month. Howard, 57, began penning the script in 1994 and revealed that a studio executive once had a more unconventional choice in mind for the role.
“Harriet, which was set up at Disney 26 years ago, was my first assignment. … Hollywood, however, was very different back then,” he recalled in an interview with Focus Features 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.’”
Howard noted that the climate in Hollywood blocked his progress from releasing the film for two decades. He credited two big projects for changing the landscape of representation in Hollywood.
“When 12 Years a Slave became a hit and did a couple hundred million dollars worldwide, I told my agent, ‘You can’t say this kind of story won’t make money now.’ Then Black Panther really blew the doors open,” Howard said.
Meanwhile, Roberts, 58, added a few more favorable roles to her filmography. She starred in My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Notting Hill (1999) and Eat Pray Love (2010), among others. Her role in Erin Brockovich (2000) also earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress.
The star has taken her keen eye for picking great roles into her personal life. Roberts has been married to her husband, Danny Moder, since 2002. A source exclusively told Us Weekly in 2018 that the couple are still going strong after all these years.
“When you see them together, there is no doubt about it. They still have crazy passion and love for each other,” a source told Us at the time. The insider added that the secret to their healthy marriage is “always making time for each other.”
They are the parents of twins, daughter Hazel and son Phinnaeus, 14, and son Henry, 12.