July 18, 2024

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How ‘The Color Purple’ became a $100 million musical adaptation

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It’s not a secret that Fantasia Barrino did not want to play Celie again. The “American Idol” winner hadn’t had the best time doing “The Color Purple” on Broadway.

The protagonist of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells her story of sexual, physical and psychological abuses in the early 20th century South in a series of letters to God. And it was a character she found it difficult to leave behind at the end of the day. Even the prospect of starring in her first major motion picture didn’t seem worth it.

But director Blitz Bazawule had a different vision: He wanted to give Celie an imagination. This Barrino found intriguing.

“Once she understood the assignment, she quickly agreed,” Bazawule said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

Now, four decades after “The Color Purple” became a literary sensation and a Steven Spielberg film, the story is on the big screen again. This time it’s a grand, big budget Warner Bros. musical starring Barrino, Taraji P. Henson, as the sultry singer Shug Avery, and Danielle Brooks, reprising her Broadway role as the strong-willed Sofia. It opens in theaters nationwide on Christmas.

“I’m glad that I didn’t allow my fear of my past experience with Celie, because of where my life was at that time, to hinder me from doing something is great,” Barrino said. “I’m riding on a high right now.”

Oprah Winfrey is one of several big-name producers on “The Color Purple,” alongside Spielberg, Quincy Jones and Scott Sanders. Winfrey got her acting break and first Oscar nomination playing Sofia in the 1985 adaptation, before helping Sanders turn it into a Broadway musical 20 years later.

Bazawule was not an obvious candidate to direct this film, however. The multi-hyphenate Ghanaian artist had received acclaim and recognition for co-directing Beyoncé’s visual album “Black is King.” The only other film he had under his belt was the microbudget “The…

Lindsey Bahr, The Associated Press

2023-12-26 05:30:00

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