'Harriet' Screenwriter Claims Julia Robert Was Suggested as Lead by a Studio Executive

Gregory Allen Howard makes the surprising revelation over the biopic about the black political activist during a Q'n'A session, describing how very different the climate in Hollywood back then.

AceShowbiz - "Harriet" screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard has revealed that in the initial stages of the biopic being made, a studio executive suggested Julia Roberts would be a good candidate to play the black American icon.

The film, starring British actress Cynthia Erivo as political activist Harriet Tubman, has been in the works for over a decade - with the premise for the movie first being pitched in the early 1990s.

And as bosses debated which actresses should be in line for the titular role, one unnamed "studio head" had a surprising suggestion.

"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 said in a Q&A with the Los Angeles Times, published on Tuesday, November 19. "The climate in Hollywood, however, was very different back then," he added.

Erivo is already being tipped for Oscar success for her role in the movie, which Howard said was only made following the release of films "12 Years a Slave" and "Black Panther".

"Two films really changed the climate in Hollywood to allow Harriet to be made," he continued. "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."

Roberts has yet to respond to Howard's claim.

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