“It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.” Thankfully, screenwriters and other executives challenged this short-sighted assumption in a recent box office film. The potential mistake and the outrage that has followed as news broke about the casting is today’s #CurrentEventFriday.
Many moviegoers have recently seen Harriet a biopic about noted abolitionist Harriet Tubman. If a studio head had his way in the preliminary stages of the film, Julia Roberts could have played the titular role. Yes, you read that right, Julia Roberts of Pretty Woman fame who is in no way African-American could have played the part of Harriet Tubman.
The odd choice of Julia Roberts first was presented to the film’s screenwriter over two decades earlier when the film was still being marketed to various studios. Gregory Allen Howard, who wrote the screenplay didn’t mention the studio head by name, so it’s left for speculation.
Admittedly, I’m critical of casting directors choosing actors to play parts for the sake of gender equivalence like the recent Captain Marvel and Ghostbusters films. Other woke choices have suggested that characters need to become LGBTQ+ in order to represent the population when the characters are not necessarily dependent or known for those sexual identities, the most notable choice has been to make Captain America gay.
Casting actors in roles of historical figures even though they don’t always bear a close resemblance can happen and the actors tend to play the essence of the real-life person rather than trying to physically resemble the person. Robin Williams’ portrayal as Pres. Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum franchise is one such example of an actor portraying the essence of the character rather than resembling him. Obviously, the studio head thought Julia Roberts could play the essence of Harriet Tubman and the audience would suspend disbelief that a white person was playing an African-American. Audiences are willing to suspend disbelief to some degree, but this instance would’ve been a stretch. Thankfully, the studio head didn’t suggest Julia Roberts play the part in blackface which would have been even more inappropriate.
Notwithstanding this surprising news about the film, Harriet seems like a film worth watching in theaters. Several on my timeline have praised the film for its portrayal of an important abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor. If you’re interested in a film featuring a well-known and beloved actor portraying a real-life figure in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood which opens in theaters today. This film stars Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood fame. With Thanksgiving break coming up, a movie outing sounds like a fun idea.
What are some dumb/strange casting choices that you’d like to recast?