Cynthia Erivo is Harriet Tubman in the first-look images from Kasi Lemmons' historical biopic, Harriet. As famous as the slave-turned abolitionist is, there's still a lot that most people don't know about Tubman's life. For example, she went on to serve as a scout and spy for the Union Army during the American Civil War, following her years of work freeing people from slavery through the Underground Railroad. Tubman later campaigned for the cause of women's suffrage, and remained politically active up until her passing in the early 20th century (at the ripe old age of 90-91).
A movie about Tubman's incredible life finally entered development in 2016, with Seith Mann (Elementary) directing from a script by Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the Titans). Erivo was attached to star shortly after, but the film went on radio silence for over a year before it was announced that Lemmons would be directing instead, from her revised script draft. The biopic has been moving along pretty steadily ever since and has already gotten its marketing underway, ahead of its release in the upcoming months.
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Focus Features released the first two photos from Harriet today, both of which feature Erivo in character as Harriet Tubman. The studio has confirmed that Lemmons' film will hit theaters in 2019, though an official date has yet to be announced. Other cast members announced so far include Leslie Odom Jr. (Murder on the Orient Express) and Janelle Monáe (Hidden Figures), in addition to Joe Alwyn (The Favourite), Jennifer Nettles (Underground), and Clarke Peters (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).
It probably goes without saying, but Focus Features undoubtedly sees Harriet as a potential contender in the next awards season. Historical biopics still play strongly with the Academy and others movies awards organizations, and a film about Harriet Tubman specifically should have an easy time getting attention. More than that, the movie is bolstered by a high-pedigree cast led by Erivo, who enjoyed a breakout year in 2018 thanks to her acclaimed performances in Bad Times at the El Royale and Widows. Lemmons is also due for some recognition, after years of making celebrated films like Eve's Bayou and the biographical drama Talk to Me. Between the pair of them, Harriet already feels like something special.
Focus Features is currently on the final leg of its awards season campaign for Spike Lee's historical drama BlacKkKlansman, which is up for six Oscars including Best Director and Picture. Lee's film isn't necessarily the favorite to win at the moment but, after a year as bizarre as the one the Academy's had, it's anyone's guess as to how the 2019 Academy Awards ceremony will actually play out. Either way, the way Harriet is shaping up, it's a fair bet that Focus will be back in the awards race with another black history drama by this time in 2020.
Source: Focus Features