EXCLUSIVE: First the abolitionist leader Harriet Ross Tubman pushed the controversial President (and Native American foe) Andrew Jackson off the $20 bill to become the first African American on U.S. currency, and now she’s getting her own feature film. It seems quite appropriate that Charles D. King, who was the first and only African American to rise from the mailroom to partner in the 118-year history of WME, is one of the producers leading the charge on the new film, called Harriet, with prolific TV director Seith Mann (Homeland) at the helm.
Tubman was a child born into slavery in 1820 who then later helped dozens of people escape servitude with the Underground Railroad, despite physical problems from beatings she received as a slave. The herioc Tubman’s life story is ripe for a film. She had an amazing life of a true warrior against injustice: she also served as a spy for the Union and also fought for a woman’s right to vote.
This is not the first time her incredible life has come to the screen. In 1978, Cicely Tyson played Tubman in the TV miniseries A Woman Called Moses based on the novel of the same name by Marcy Heidish. Viola Davis is also developing a project based on the Kate Clifford Larson book Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman: Portrait of an American Hero for HBO.
Davis is currently starring in the film adaptation of Fences, which was partially financed by King who is also one of the financiers on Harriet.
King’s company Macro who recently partnered with Paramount Pictures and Bron Studios to produce and finance the feature adaptation of August Wilson’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fences, directed by and starring Denzel Washington, and New Balloon one of the companies who helped finance the critically acclaimed Cary Fukunaga-directed film Beasts of No Nation have joined to finance the Harriet Tubman biopic.
They expect to begin early next year from a script by Gregory Allen Howard (who was credited with the story for Ali and wrote Remember the Titans which starred Denzel Washington). Mann has directed over 30 episodes of TV including The Wire, Brotherhood, Friday Night Lights, Californication, The Walking Dead, to name a few. He most recently wrote, directed and executive produced The Breaks, an original movie for VH1 that has been picked up to series for the network.
Producing Harriet will be Debra Martin Chase (The Princess Diaries, Sparkle), Howard, King and Daniela Taplin Lundberg (Hello My Name is Doris, The Family Fang) along with Macro president of production Kim Roth (Mena, Inside Man). Co-producers will be Kristen Konvitz (Silent House) and Charles Pugliese (Cairo Time).
New Balloon’s Beasts of No Nation team of Elizabeth Koch (company founder) and Kristina Kendall are executive producing with Macro’s Poppy Hanks (The Land, Barbershop 2: Back in Business). Bill Benenson (Beasts of No Nation) will also exec produce.
Howard is repped by WME and The Gotham Group. Chase, who is a Peabody Award-winning producer, is repped by CAA and Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano. Lundberg is repped by WME. Mann is repped by CAA, Writ Large and Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano.