Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind the Making of “The Color Purple”
When our favorite books are turned into movies it can either be really great or terribly awful. Though the film adaptation of The Color Purple was a bit different from the book, as expected, the movie was still a masterpiece. The film was well cast with big names who were trying new things and people who had yet to step onto our radar. But it all came together to create an iconic film. So timeless that we bet you still can’t help but to watch it when it comes on tv. Though the story is full of pain, many of us have been able to find humor in some of the film’s darkest moments. Like, What’s Love Got to Do With It, lines from The Color Purple have become a part of the culture. (I’m sure many of you will quote the more popular ones in the comments section.) You know the plot, you know the lines but did you know these behind the scenes secrets? Read on to find out.
Who is going to play Shug Avery?
You would not believe the number of names that came up when it came to this role. Initially, it seemed like the directors were going for a professional singer. Phyllis Hymen was the first choice for the role. While some sources say she declined it, others say she lost it. (The story was included in her biography.) Patti Labelle auditioned for the role but didn’t make the cut. Sheryl Lee Ralph also tested for the role. After Phyllis Hymen was out of the running Spielberg himself tried to get Chaka Khan but she later admitted that she was too scared to take on the role. She wasn’t the only one who wasn’t interested. Diana Ross, Lola Falana and Tina Turner all turned down the role of Shug Avery. Who knows how these divas would have come across on screen but we’re glad that the role eventually went to Margaret Avery. She nailed it.
Somebody got robbed
The film was very well received in theaters and critics agree it was a classic. Roger Ebert called it the best film of 1985 and predicted that Whoopi would win an Academy Award for her performance. Well Whoopi was certainly nominated. In fact, the film received 11 Academy Award nominations including best picture, best actress, best supporting actress, best writing and best music. Despite all the acknowledgment, the film didn’t receive a single award from the Academy. Not one. If you ask me, that sounds a little sketchy. The Color Purple along with 1977’s The Turning Point hold the record for the most Oscar nominations without a win.
Not enough Lesbian Love
If you’ve read the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, then you know that Celie and Shug Avery share more than a platonic friendship. Yet, their lesbian love affair wasn’t depicted in the movie, with the exception of a little kiss. Spielberg has said that he decided to omit that portion of the book because he didn’t feel audiences were ready for it. But Spielberg has also said he regrets that decision.
Keep it on the Hush
When word got out that the novel, “The Color Purple” was going to be turned into a feature film, naturally people wanted to be involved. The response was so grand that instead of listing the audition under the actual film name, they had to change it to “Moon Song.” Obviously, if you wanted a part in this film, your people had to know people.
What did Alice Walker think?
It can be really hard to watch someone try to reinterpret your work for a different medium. Walker was there on set during filming so I’m sure she was consulted. But when the film was finished and she saw an advanced screening she did not like it. At all. She used the word “horrified.” She didn’t even like the opening scene because she said it looked more like Oklahoma than rural Georgia. But her opinion shifted a bit when she saw it again with an audience who loved it. Walker finally conceded that the film was good, just very different from her original novel.
Whoopi’s Extraterrestrial audition
Whoopi has never been one to take the traditional route. When she auditioned for the role of Celie she did so by portraying a stoned E.T. Yes, an alien. She did so to prove to Spielberg (and Quincy and Michael Jackson, who were also in the room) that she could play this and any role. God knows she was right.
Quincy Jones convinced Spielberg to direct the film
What doesn’t Quincy Jones have his hands in? Apparently, Jones and Spielberg are good friends and he tried to convince the filmmaker that he should take on The Color Purple. Spielberg didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity. He was very hesitant, telling Jones that he wasn’t familiar with the south and a black person should direct the film. Quincy told Spielberg that he wasn’t an alien but he directed E.T. Well, Spielberg bought his argument and took the project on. The rest is history. Thanks Quincy!
Oprah becomes an actress
Remember that powerful scene where Sophia (Oprah) is thanking Celie (Whoopi) for all she’s done for her? Well that was complete improv. As moving as those lines were, they weren’t scripted. Considering that this was Oprah’s first movie that’s pretty impressive, to say the least. That scene right there is a tear jerker. Even Whoopi was moved. After the scene wrapped., Whoopi went and hugged Oprah and told her she was now an actress.
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