In the 1990s meeting, the studio executive apparently said people wouldn't notice if Roberts played Tubman because the famed abolitionist lived "so long ago."
"A Hollywood executive wanted Julia Roberts to portray Harriet Tubman in the leading abolitionist's biopic, the screenwriter of the new film “Harriet” said.
After studying Tubman’s life in college, about how she helped lead enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad, screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard was determined to adapt her story into a feature film, he said in an interview with Focus Features, the distributor of 'Harriet.'
When he met with a studio president about the idea in 1994, his script garnered praise, Howard wrote in an essay in the Los Angeles Times. It also received a casting suggestion.
'Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman,' the executive told Howard.
Howard said the one other black person in the meeting said that would be impossible, as Julia Roberts is white."
Obviously Julia Roberts would wear blackface during the movie. Problem solved.