A Hollywood executive wants Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman in the leading abolitionist biography, screenwriter of the new film "Harriet".
After studying Tubman's life in college, about how he helped lead enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad, screenwriter Gregory Allen Howard was determined to adapt his story to a feature film, he said in an interview with Focus Features, distributor of "Harriet"
When he met a studio president about the idea in 1994, the script was praised, Howard wrote in an essay in the Los Angeles Times. It also accepts casting suggestions.
"Let's call Julia Roberts to play Harriet Tubman," the executive told Howard.
Let our news fill your inbox. Important news and stories, delivered weekday mornings.
Howard said another black person at the meeting said it was not possible, because Julia Roberts was white.
The President replied, "It has been a long time. No one will know that, "Howard wrote.
It took Howard another 25 years to get "Harriet," which he also helped produce, to the cinema. The film was released in the United States in November, and stars Cynthia Erivo, who is black, like Tubman, in a show that has garnered Oscar buzz.
Howard, who did not immediately return a request for comment, said the climate had changed in Hollywood since he went to the meeting in the 90s.
Download the NBC News app for the latest news
"When 12 Years a Slave became a hit and made several hundred million dollars all over the world, I told my agent, 'You can't say a story like this won't make money now.' He told Focus Features. "Then the Black Panther really opened the door."
Roberts declined to comment on the casting suggestion.
"Harriet" is distributed by Focus Features, an independent film label owned by NBC Universal, the parent company of NBC News.