See Halle Bailey, Taraji P. Henson And More In Trailer For 'The Color Purple' Musical Film
It’s been almost four decades since the release of Steven Spielberg’s classic The Color Purple, which depicts the trauma and heartache of black American teenager Celie. Born into poverty, uneducated and living in rural Georgia during the early 20th Century, Celie is raped by her stepfather, has her children taken away from her, and is coerced into marriage.
The dark plot, which sees Celie document her encounters of incest, child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence through letters to God, gradually reveals her journey from a silent and withdrawn teen to an empowered and courageous woman, against all odds. This all unfolds after meeting defiant and self-charged Shug Avery, who becomes her friend and role model, and teaches her to fight back.
Through the lens of a vulnerable Black female who faces the double oppression of white racism and Black patriarchy, The Color Purple highlights the power of perseverance. Spielberg and author Alice Walker (who wrote the 1982 novel of which the film is based) took a disheartening tale and turned it into a largely positive message.
Starring Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, the original 1985 film was nominated for multiple awards at the 1986 Oscars, and saw Goldberg up for a ‘Best Actress’ accolade and Winfrey in the running for ‘Best Actress in a Supporting Role’. Goldberg also triumphed at the Golden Globes for her portrayal of Sofia.
‘The Color Purple in 1985 was the biggest and most important thing that ever happened to me and continues to be,’ Winfrey said on stage at CinemaCon 2023.
The classic premiered as a musical on broadway in 2005, directed by Gary Griffin, and was revived a decade later with Cynthia Erivo, Jennifer Hudson, and Danielle Brooks in lead roles.
Now, we’re more than ready to see the story hit the big screen as a musical film due for release in the UK in 2024. The latest adaption boasts a star-studded cast, including Taraji P. Henson, Halle Bailey, H.E.R. and Danielle Brooks, and has been produced by Winfrey herself. And it’s ‘not your mama's Color Purple', as per the film's tagline.
Here’s everything you need to know about The Color Purple musical film:
What’s The Color Purple musical film plot?
‘To reinvent the movie at this time is to reinvent a phenomenon,’ Oprah has said. Written by Marcus Gardley, the new adaption is infused with magical realism. ‘We get to see and feel what’s going on in Celie’s imagination,’ Winfrey explained.
Who stars in The Color Puple musical film?
The original 1985 film adaption of The Color Purple gave way to an ensemble cast, including Goldberg as Celie, Winfrey as Sofia, Danny Glover as Mister, Rae Dawn Chong as Squeak and Lawrence Fishburne as Swain.
Of the upcoming adaption, directed by Blitz Bazawule, Winfrey said: ‘From day one, finding a cast that could live up to the musical has been the exciting opportunity.’
Singer Fantasia Barrino stars as Celie, Danielle Brooks (Orange Is the New Black) as Sofia, Henson (Hidden Figures) as Shug Avery, Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton) as Harpo, Colman Domingo (Euphoria) as Mister, H.E.R. as Squeak and Halle Bailey (The Little Mermaid) as Young Nettie.
Speaking of Brooks, who plays Winfrey’s character Sofia (Celie’s close friend) in the 2023 adaption, Winfrey said: ‘It was like passing the baton to Sofia,’ adding, ‘I know you’re going to kill it.’
A tearful Brooks responded: ‘My heart is so full. I’m going to make you so proud.’
Brooks even has the word ‘surrender’ tattooed on her right forearm based on Winfrey’s experience of auditioning for the original film. Winfrey was ‘obsessed’ with landing the role and sang the hymn ‘I Surrender All’ to control her thoughts before Spielberg called about her final audition.
Gushing about Henson, who most know as the fiery Cookie Lyon in musical drama series Empire, Winfrey said: ‘Shug Avery has to have a real level of pure, raw sexiness, as well as be a wisdom teacher. She’s the one that actually is the role model for Celie. Celie sees the possibilities of what a woman can be and do through Shug Avery—she’s the one who says God gets pissed if you don’t notice the colour purple. She has to have some wisdom, sense, yet be sexy as hell.’
Explaining her criteria for casting Shug Avery, she explained: ‘My standard was the song in the musical that says, “Lock up all your husbands because Shug Avery is coming to town”. When we were looking at actresses, I thought, Well, are you going to lock up your husband? She’s gotta be “Lock up your husband” worthy. And Taraji P. Henson is indeed that.
Henson herself said she was previously approached about starring in the stage adaption but ‘totally punked out’. She said the upcoming film ‘is the perfect way to do it, one and done’.
Referring to Bailey (Nettie), who went viral when she landed her breakout role as Disney princess Ariel in The Little Mermaid 2023 remake, Winfrey said: ‘You have to have a kind of presence that holds the space during most of the movie when Nettie is gone and you only remember her through the letters.'
Winfrey sweetly added: ‘We chose her for her talent and presence.’
In March 2022, it was revealed that Grammy-winning pop icon Ciara would be joining the cast. Other members of the line-up include Louis Gossett Jr. as Ol' Mister, David Alan Grier as Reverend Avery, Tamela J. Mann as First Lady, newcomer Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as Young Celie, Deon Cole as Alfonso and Stephen Hill as Buster.
After filming began, Aunjanue Ellis, who played Serena and Venus Williams' mother in King Richard, joined to play Celie and Nettie’s mother (Mama) and Oscar-winner musician Jon Batiste to play Grady, Shug Avery’s husband.
What have the cast said about The Color Purple musical film?
In July 2022, the cast took to social media to share their experience of filming the musical.
Bazawule, who co-directed Black Is King with Beyoncé and Emmanuel Adjei, enthused: ‘I have no doubt we have created something special and can’t wait to share with the world,’ to which Winfrey affirmed: ‘It’s Gonna be SPECTACULAR—for sure!’
Bailey shared: ‘I’m so very grateful to have had this experience’, after previously calling the role ‘life changing’.
Is The Color Purple based on a book?
Yes, the epistolary novel by author, poet and activist Walker was one of the ‘national anthems for women’s empowerment’, as described by Winfrey.
When is the release date for The Color Purple musical film?
While it lands in the US on December 25, 2023, we’ll have to wait until January 26, 2024 when it hits UK cinema screens. In the meantime, you can stream the original film here.
Has filming wrapped for The Color Purple?
Filming for The Color Purple 2023 wrapped in July 2022.
Is there a trailer for The Color Purple musical film?
Yes, a trailer for the film was released on Tuesday May, 2o23.
It gives a glimpse of Celie's torment after being separated from her sister Nettie, shows her trauma as a Black woman residing in the early 20th century, and highlights the sisterhood theme of the story.
Prior to the trailer's release, on April 25, 2023, director Bazawule and producer Winfrey shared a sneak peek of the original film at CinemaCon in Las Vegas.
The footage hadn't been released to the public, but Winfrey teased that the 2023 version features ‘magical realism, wholesome family goodness, and some of the best actors you've ever seen’.
Barrino, who makes her feature film debut in the new adaption, teased: ‘You're gonna laugh, you're gonna cry, everybody brings it. But in the end, you'll be healed. Because guess what? I was healed.’
Watch the trailer for the original film here.
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