Cynthia Erivo to star as abolitionist Harriet Tubman in new biopic

Cynthia Erivo has landed the lead role in biopic Harriet, which will chronicle the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.The Tony Award-winner, who is garnering buzz for her role in Steve McQueen movie Widows, will begin filming Harriet in October (18) i…

Cynthia Erivo has landed the lead role in biopic Harriet, which will chronicle the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman.

The Tony Award-winner, who is garnering buzz for her role in Steve McQueen movie Widows, will begin filming Harriet in October (18) in Virginia, alongside cast members Leslie Odom Jr., Joe Alwyn, Jennifer Nettles, and Clarke Peters.

Rising star Erivo, who won a Tony, Grammy and Emmy for her starring role as Celie in the 2015 Broadway revival of The Color Purple, has been attached to the Harriet project since last year.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the British-Nigerian actress spoke about playing the American icon, admitting she is slightly daunted.

“I can’t say I’m not frightened,” the 31-year-old told the publication. “I am, but that’s probably a good thing.”

Harriet follows African-American icon Tubman’s escape from slavery in 1849 and subsequent missions to rescue dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity.

Kasi Lemmons of Eve’s Bayou fame will direct from a screenplay she co-wrote with Gregory Allen Howard, alongside Oscar-winning cinematographer John Toll, who has worked on cinema epics Legends of the Fall and Braveheart.

Producers are Debra Martin Chase with Martin Chase Productions, Daniela Taplin Lundberg with Stay Gold Features, and Howard.

Josh McLaughlin will oversee the production, which tells the heroic story of a “powerless woman who accomplished the extraordinary to save her loved ones” and “in the process became a leader of and inspiration for her people”.

“While Harriet Tubman is a household name, most people don’t know the breadth of her story – not only was she a conductor on the Underground Railroad, but she was a spy for the Union army and remains one of the the few women to have led an armed expedition in U.S. history,” explained Martin Chase and Lundberg.

Focus Features and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film worldwide.

Erivo’s Widows co-star Viola Davis was previously linked to a Tubman HBO film in 2015.

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Viola Davis to present Steve McQueen with BAFTA’s John Schlesinger Britannia Award

Viola Davis will present Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen with BAFTA’s John Schlesinger Britannia Award in October (18).According to The Hollywood Reporter, BAFTA Los Angeles announced on Thursday (16Aug18) that the British director, who won a Best…

Viola Davis will present Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen with BAFTA’s John Schlesinger Britannia Award in October (18).

According to The Hollywood Reporter, BAFTA Los Angeles announced on Thursday (16Aug18) that the British director, who won a Best Picture Oscar in 2014 for movie 12 Years a Slave, would be this year’s recipient of the John Schlesinger Britannia Award for excellence in directing at the organisation’s 2018 Britannia Awards.

The filmmaker will be presented with the honour by Viola, who is the lead actress in his highly anticipated film Widows, which premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, at the awards event in Los Angeles in October.

Previous recipients of the award include Ava DuVernay, Sam Mendes, Danny Boyle, Christopher Nolan, Quentin Tarantino, and Kathryn Bigelow.

The honour comes as McQueen’s fourth feature as a director – following 12 Years a Slave, Shame and Hunger – is building significant buzz in Hollywood, with the heist movie boasting a female-led cast including Viola, Michelle Rodriguez, Cynthia Erivo, and Elizabeth Debicki.

It is based on a 1980s British television series written by Lynda La Plante about a group of women who embark on a robbery after their husbands are killed.

The show made a big impression on the London-born director, who decided to follow up his 2013 Oscar-winning film with a woman’s story.

“I remember seeing Lynda La Plante’s TV show Widows at 13 years old,” McQueen told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The idea that these women achieved something no one thought they had the capability of doing left a big impression on me, especially at a time in my life when I was being judged in the same way,” explained McQueen, who has previously spoken of the institutional racism he experienced during his school years.

“Many years later, when I first came to Hollywood, I was struck by how many talented actresses weren’t working,” he continued. “I decided then that after I made a movie about slavery that I wanted to make a female-driven film.”

McQueen’s version has been relocated to Chicago and also stars Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall, and Brian Tyree Henry.

The 2018 Britannia Awards take place 26 October at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

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Orlando Bloom, Leslie Odom Jr., Freida Pinto & Cynthia Erivo tapped for new movie

Orlando Bloom, Leslie Odom Jr., Freida Pinto and Cynthia Erivo have joined John Ridley’s new movie.The American screenwriter, who won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, is not only penning the script for new feature Needle in a Timestack, an adaption of a …

Orlando Bloom, Leslie Odom Jr., Freida Pinto and Cynthia Erivo have joined John Ridley’s new movie.

The American screenwriter, who won an Oscar for 12 Years a Slave, is not only penning the script for new feature Needle in a Timestack, an adaption of a short story by Robert Silverberg, but he’s directing and producing it too.

The sci-fi flick will tell the story of a husband whose marriage is destroyed by a time-travel rival and will do whatever it takes to get his wife back.

Leslie and Cynthia both have highly acclaimed stage careers, and they each won a Tony Award in 2016, for their roles in Hamilton and The Color Purple, respectively.

Both stars are now moving more into film work, with Leslie previously joining Kenneth Branagh’s A-list Agatha Christie retelling Murder on the Orient Express. He has a further two films in production, Sia’s directorial debut Sister, and Only, which pairs him with Freida again.

Cynthia also has a packed schedule, starring in four new movies, including the lead role in Harriet, which recounts the story of Harriet Tubman, who helped free hundreds of slaves from the South after escaping from slavery herself in 1849.

In a role reversal, Orlando has taken some time out of movie making in the last year and has been treading the boards in London in play Killer Joe. He’s also been filming TV series Carnival Row with Cara Delevingne.

Freida has also been concentrating on TV work and was last seen on the small screen in The Path earlier this year.

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Steve McQueen: ‘I made Widows to give talented actresses work’

Steve McQueen was driven to make female-led movie Widows after noticing how many talented actresses were out of work.Viola Davis leads a cast of stars including Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Robert Duvall and Daniel…

Steve McQueen was driven to make female-led movie Widows after noticing how many talented actresses were out of work.

Viola Davis leads a cast of stars including Liam Neeson, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Robert Duvall and Daniel Kaluuya in the remake of the groundbreaking ’80s British TV show written by Lynda La Plante, which ran for two seasons.

The show made a big impression on the London-born director, who after coming to Hollywood, had decided he would tell a woman’s story as the follow-up to his 2013 Oscar-winning film 12 Years a Slave.

“I remember seeing Lynda La Plante’s TV show Widows at 13 years old,” McQueen told the Chicago Sun-Times. “The idea that these women achieved something no one thought they had the capability of doing left a big impression on me, especially at a time in my life when I was being judged in the same way,” explained McQueen, who has previously spoken of the inequality and institutional racism he experienced during his school years. “Many years later, when I first came to Hollywood, I was struck by how many talented actresses weren’t working,” he continued. “I decided then that after I made a movie about slavery that I wanted to make a female-driven film.”

Widows follows four women whose career criminal husbands are gone, leaving them with a serious debt to pay, so they plan a heist to raise the money.

In the trailer, which debuted on Monday (04Jun18), we see the surviving widows come together to try to deal with the debt left behind from the failed job with Viola’s character as the confident leader, clad in full-body armour.

McQueen directed the film from a script he co-wrote with Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn. New Regency, 20th Century Fox and Film4 are co-financing the movie, which Fox will distribute.

While the original TV show was set in the U.K., the movie was filmed in Chicago, which McQueen chose because of its many intersecting “levels of interest”.

“Political, racial, religion, policing, criminality and how all of those networks at some point cross over and have a relationship to each other,” the 48-year-old explained. “I believe environments create their own style… I don’t like the idea of bringing a stencil onto things. I believe very much in embracing what’s already there.”

Widows is set to hit cinemas in November.

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