This has been a passion project for the TV mogul and Oscar-nominated actress who six years ago teamed with Six Feet Under and True Blood creator Alan Ball to produce a feature-length adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s then-recently published nonfiction bestseller though HBO Films, which acquired the book for the duo. Winfrey has now upped her involvement by committing to star in the movie.
Veteran Broadway director-producer George C. Wolfe (HBO’s Lackawanna Blues; Tony winner for Angels In America) wrote the adaptation and will direct the film, which will begin shooting in the summer. Winfrey’s previous acting credits include high-profile supporting roles in the features Selma, Lee Daniels’ The Butler as well as her acting debut, The Color Purple, which earned her an Oscar nomination.
The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks tells the true story of Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman whose cells were used to create the first immortal human cell line. Told through the eyes of her daughter, Deborah Lacks (Winfrey), the film chronicles her search to learn about the mother she never knew and to understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs, changing countless lives and the face of medicine forever. It’s a story of medical arrogance and triumph, race, poverty and deep friendship between the unlikeliest of people.
Winfrey and Oscar winner Ball executive produce the movie alongside Peter Macdissi (Cinemax’s Banshee), Carla Gardini (The Hundred-Foot Journey) and Lydia Dean Pilcher (HBO’s You Don’t Know Jack). It’s a Your Face Goes Here Entertainment, Harpo Films and Cine Mosaic production. Skloot serves as co-executive producer, while Henrietta Lacks’ sons David Lacks Jr. and Zakariyya Rahman and granddaughter Jeri Lacks are consultants.
Skloot’s The Immortal Life Of Henrietta Lacks, which took more than a decade to research and write, instantly hit the New York Times bestseller list when it was published in February 2010 and remained there for more than four years.