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Home / News / Film / Focus Features sets Harriet Tubman biopic with Cynthia Erivo; Kasi Lemmons to direct

Focus Features sets Harriet Tubman biopic with Cynthia Erivo; Kasi Lemmons to direct

Focus Features announced today that production on Harriet, a biopic of abolitionist Harriet Tubman is set to begin next month in Virginia. Tony, Grammy and, Emmy-winner Cynthia Erivo is set to star with Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou) set to direct from a screenplay she co-wrote with Gregory Allen Howard (Remember the Titans). 

Erivo just made her film debut in Steve McQueen’s Widows, which world premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last week and has The Bad Times at the El Royale coming out next month. She has some low-key awards buzz for both films but it’s Harriet that could be her ticket to EGOT status. 

Harriet Tubman helped free hundreds of slaves from the South after escaping from slavery herself in 1849. Despite being one of the most recognizable names in civil rights activism Tubman has never received the Hollywood biopic treatment in a feature film until now. 

The cast also includes Tony and Grammy winner Leslie Odom Jr. (Hamilton), Joe Alwyn (Boy Erased), Grammy-winner Jennifer Nettles, and Clarke Peters (HBO’s The Wire).  Debra Martin Chase with Martin Chase Productions, Daniela Taplin Lundberg with Stay Gold Features and Gregory Allen Howard are set to produce.

“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 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,” said 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 film.”

Focus Features is currently looking at a very awards-friendly slate with Cannes winner BlacKkKlansman having opened last month, Boy Erased (starring Ocar nominee Lucas Hedges and Oscar winners Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe) premiering at Telluride and Toronto to strong reviews before its November and Mary Queen of Scots (starring Oscar nominees Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie) and the Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex (starring Oscar nominee Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer) coming in December. 

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About Erik Anderson

Erik thanks his mother for his love of all things Oscar, having watched the Academy Awards together since he was in the single digits; making lists, rankings and predictions throughout the show. This led him down the path to obsessing about awards. Much later, he found himself at GoldDerby, led by Tom O’Neill and then migrated over to Oscarwatch (now AwardsDaily), headed up by Sasha Stone before breaking off to create AwardsWatch. He is a member of the International Cinephile Society, GALECA (The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics), the International Press Academy and is the founder/owner of AwardsWatch.

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