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A studio exec wanted Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman. Naturally, Twitter reacted

In 1994, a suit had what is perhaps the worst casting idea ever after reading Gregory Allen Howard’s script about the legendary abolitionist.

A studio exec wanted Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman. Naturally, Twitter reacted
Actress Julia Roberts (left), and Cynthia Erivo (right) starring as Harriet Tubman in Harriet. [Photo: Jean-Baptiste LaCroix/AFP via Getty Images (Roberts); Glen Wilson/Focus Features (Erivo)]

Even when taken in the context of the long history of mind-boggling awful notes from studio execs who care about nothing but dollar$, this one stands on its own as a bad take. 

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In a newly published Q&A on the Focus Features site, Harriet screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard explains how, back in 1994, when he was trying to get Harriet off the ground, a Hollywood studio executive said, “‘This script is fantastic. Let’s get Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman.'”

Now, if you’re into giving people the benefit of the doubt, you might be thinking that maybe the executive didn’t know who Harriet Tubman was, which is, of course, a crime unto itself. But this person apparently had their heart set on the Pretty Woman star playing the former slave who became one of the most important abolitionists in American history.

“When someone pointed out that Roberts couldn’t be Harriet,” Howard says in the interview, “the executive responded, ‘It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference.'” 

It was so long ago. No one is going to know the difference. 

Deep sigh. 

Of course, Twitter weighed in.  

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Imagine being Julia Roberts, minding your business, and then you log in to Twitter . . . 

Remember that time Scarlett Johansson almost played a transgender man in a movie and pushed back against the backlash for a while, before finally pulling out? The internet sure does.

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Then there are those who weren’t so shocked, given Hollywood’s history of white-washed casting. 

And finally, there are these. 

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