Finding New Dimensions, Brotherhood, and Healing in ‘The Color Purple’


It's no secret that Fantasia Barrino never wanted to play Celie again. The "American Idol" winner didn't have a good time doing "The Color Purple" on Broadway.

The heroine of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel tells the story of sexual, physical, and psychological abuse in the early 20th century South in a series of letters to God. And it was a character that was difficult for him to leave at the end of the day. Even the prospect of starring in his first major motion picture didn't seem worth it.

But director Blitz Bazawule had a different perspective:He wanted to give Celie a fantasy. Barrino found this interesting.

"Once she understood the assignment, she immediately 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 The story is once again on the big screen, This time it's a lavish, big-budget Warner Bros. musical starring Barrino, Taraji P. Henson as charming singer Shug Avery, and Danielle Brooks reprising her Broadway role as the strong-willed Sophia. Are. It will be released in theaters across the country on Christmas.

Barrino said, "I'm glad I didn't let the fear of my previous experience with Celie, because the state my life was in at the time, stop me from doing something, it's a great thing." "I'm on a high right now."

Oprah Winfrey Spielberg is one of several big-name producers on "The Color Purple," along with Quincy Jones and Scott Sanders. Winfrey got her acting break and first Oscar nomination playing Sophia in the 1985 adaptation, before helping to adapt Sanders into a Broadway musical 20 years later.

However, Bazwule was not the obvious candidate to direct this film. The multi-hyphenate Ghanaian artiste received praise and recognition for co-directing Beyoncé's visual album "Black Is King". His only other film was the microbudget "The Burial of Kojo", made for less than $100,000.

But he had ambitious ideas involving large-scale musical numbers that would take the audience on a dazzling journey through the history of black music in America, from gospel to blues to jazz. And, of course, Celie's inner life. He wasn't at all sure he'd get it, but he knew the story he wanted to tell.

Taraji P. Henson, Fantasia Barrino, and Danielle Brooks formed a tight-knit sisterhood while working on the set of Blitz Bazewule's 'The Color Purple'. (December 20)

"I thought, if I could find a way to show audiences how this black woman from the rural South was able to imagine her way out of pain and trauma, it would demolish a myth that people who live through the trauma of abuse Humble and passive or waiting to be rescued,” Bazawule said. “If we can bring that scale to (Celi), that's the version that needs to exist. Thankfully he said yes.”

However, to secure that kind of budget (reportedly around $100 million) they would have to go through some difficulties, including having to audition Oscar-nominated actors Henson and Brooks, who already had Tony nominations. . For her portrayal of Sophia.

"We weren't the studio's choice," Henson said. “I just felt like auditioning. I'm nominated for an Academy Award. I had just finished singing on NBC's 'Annie Live'. But I checked my ego and I did it. I went in as a shag. I got a dress, a flower in my hair and a fake fur stole and I kicked the door down because I didn't want them to ever guess about me again."

For Brooks, it was a six-month process that left him doubting himself. Many of the people involved in "The Color Purple" felt the exhaustion of having to prove themselves again, but they still wanted to face the challenge because the film was worth it.

"It's a huge undertaking to be a part of," Brooks said. “This film is about legacy and I have been calling it cinematic legacy.”

His Broadway production was very minimal and stripped down, so being on location around Georgia, Macon, Savannah, Atlanta and the small town of Grantville, was revelatory.

"My world really opened up because I got a chance to use all my senses," Brooks said. “I got a chance to explore all of Sofia because now I have a juke joint and I have a dining table. I have a house. We had a white mob attacking me."

The Juke Joint was a real set that required mopping up an actual swamp, where they staged Shag's showstopper, "Push da Button".

“This is probably the perfect confluence of my amazing technical and creative teams,” Bazawule said.

The film gives a new boldness to Celie and Shug's relationship with each other and more dimension to the male characters, including colman domingo's Sir.

And all bear the burden of responsibility not only to the material and its predecessors, but also to future films made with predominantly black casts at this level.

Henson said, "This isn't the first time I've been in a production of this scale, but what matters to me is that it's a Black production and it's with a Black producer, a Black director, predominantly Black. There's a production with a cast." “It's like usually we have to make a dollar out of 15 cents. And after 20+ years in the game, it feels like the studio finally trusts us.”

The question of awards is a burdensome one. Although “The Color Purple” has all the makings of a big Oscar contender (Barrino and Brooks have already been nominated for Golden Globes), it comes with history. Spielberg's film was nominated for 11 Oscars and infamously did not win any. And then there's the even more complicated topic of black women and Hollywood awards. Halle Berry remains the only black Best Actress Oscar winner.

Bazawule isn't particularly interested in the "dog and pony show" of awards season. It's difficult for him to understand how one can pit one film against another, but he understands that there are real benefits in earning the potential and creative freedom that happens when his actors, especially women, She gets nominated and wins.

“Our job was to take Alice Walker's brilliant book and pay homage to it. We did that. We found our healing through this and we are an amazing group together. Our Q&As are out of this world,” he said before pausing. "Now that's what I want and I want a reward for it."

Everyone seems to agree that what they experienced is far greater than the recognition they receive from an award.

"There's something magical about this story," Brooks said. “It really messes with your heart in the best way. This opens it. What I experienced during the journey of working on 'The Color Purple' was like nothing I had ever experienced before."



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