Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski announced today that Focus has set production on Harriet, a new feature chronicling the life of heroic abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Tubman will be played by Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo (Widows), and the cast includes fellow Tony Award winner and Grammy Award winner Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton,” Murder on the Orient Express), Joe Alwyn (Boy Erased, The Favourite, Mary Queen of Scots), multiple Grammy Award winner Jennifer Nettles, and Clarke Peters (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri). Awarding-winning director Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) will direct the Harriet Tubman movie from a screenplay she co-wrote with Gregory Allen Howard (Ali, Remember the Titans).
Debra Martin Chase (The Princess Diaries, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) with Martin Chase Productions, Daniela Taplin Lundberg (Beasts of No Nation, The Kids are All Right) with Stay Gold Features and Gregory Allen Howard will produce. They’re joined by cinematographer John Toll and costume designer Paul Tazewell. Josh McLaughlin, Focus Features president of production, will oversee the production. The film is set to begin filming this October in Virginia.
Based on the story of iconic freedom fighter Harriet Tubman, Harriet follows Tubman on her escape from slavery and subsequent missions to free dozens of slaves through the Underground Railroad in the face of growing pre-Civil War adversity.
“This is the story of a seemingly powerless woman who accomplished the extraordinary to save her loved ones, and in the process became a leader of and inspiration for her people,” said producers Debra Martin Chase and Daniela Taplin Lundberg. “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 US history.”
“Tubman’s courageous life and the scope of her bravery is truly made to be told on the big screen. The countless lives she saved, during a time of such hatred and danger to herself, can be described only as heroic,” commented Focus chairman Peter Kujawski. “We’re thrilled to be working with this incredibly talented group of filmmakers led by Kasi, Debra, Daniela, and Greg and this multi-talented group of actors in bringing Tubman’s life to screen.”
Focus Features and Universal Pictures International will distribute the film worldwide.