Listen to the article
Oprah Winfrey has attributed her coping with the trauma of childhood rape to The Color Purple, Alice Walker’s distinguished novel, as she introduced a new cinematic musical adaptation of the work. This film marks the second major adaptation, following Steven Spielberg’s 1985 drama, depicting the ordeals and sexual exploitation endured by Black women in the early 20th century American South.
Oprah Winfrey, speaking after a Los Angeles screening, expressed the profound impact of the novel on her personal healing process, “From the very first time I read The Color Purple, it was a blessing in my life, because until that time, I didn’t know that there was language for what had happened to me,” she stated. “I had been raped and had a child at 14, who later died, and I did not have any language to explain what that was. That book was the first time that there was a story about me.”
The Color Purple chronicles the tumultuous journey of Celie, an African American girl in rural Georgia. Subjected to rape by her father and coerced into relinquishing her two children, Celie’s narrative unfolds into a life of enforced marriage marred by abuse. Through her dilemma, she forms bonds with other women, confronting their collective traumas and prejudices.
Recalling the 1980s, Oprah Winfrey described how learning of Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation led her to fervently pray for a role in the movie. Her appearance on a television talk show captured the attention of musician and producer Quincy Jones, leading to her casting as Sofia, a resilient character confronting racism and adversity. Her role earned her an Oscar nomination and, as Oprah Winfrey relayed to the audience, profoundly altered her life. She expressed a sense of fulfillment in producing the remake, seeing it as a full-circle moment in her career.
Subsequent to Spielberg’s film, The Color Purple, was transformed into a Broadway musical in 2005. The current film, inspired by this musical rendition, presents a narrative imbued with lighter and more uplifting tones. Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones are all credited as producers. The cast includes Broadway veterans Fantasia Barrino and Danielle Brooks, reprising their roles as Celie and Sofia respectively.
Oprah Winfrey emphasized the iconic significance of Sofia’s character in her life, noting her insistence on being present for the filming of a pivotal scene where Celie, envious of Sofia’s autonomy, incites her friend’s husband to violence. Winfrey described this moment as “passing the baton.”
Directed by Ghanaian filmmaker Blitz Bazawule, recognized for his work on Beyonce’s 2020 musical film Black Is King, the movie also stars Colman Domingo, Taraji P. Henson, and Louis Gossett Jr., with musical contributions from H.E.R., Jon Batiste, and Halle Bailey. Warner Bros is set to release The Color Purple in theaters on Christmas Day.