Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg have reunited to revive “The Color Purple” into a movie musical.
After debuting footage for distributors at CinemaCon last month, Warner Bros. has released the first trailer of the new adaptation, directed by Blitz Bazawule and set to premiere in North America on Dec. 25. The film will open internationally beginning Jan. 18, 2024.
The trailer features visually bold motifs as it takes audiences inside Celie’s headspace with “American Idol” winner Fantasia reprising her Broadway role. It also gives an insight into the sisterhood of the women at the heart of the story. Elevated by grandeur, the highlights are the musical clips and jaw-dropping production set against the backdrop of the plantation.
The latest adaptation stars Fantasia as Celie in her major motion picture debut, alongside Danielle Brooks as Sofia, who earned a Tony nomination for her performance in the 2016 Broadway revival, Taraji P. Henson as Shug Avery, Colman Domingo as Mister, H.E.R. as Squeak, Halle Bailey as Young Nettie, Corey Hawkins as Harpo and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor as Mama. The adaptation’s cast also features Louis Gossett Jr. as Ol’ Mister, David Alan Grier as Reverend Avery, Ciara as Nettie, Deon Cole as Alfonso, Phylicia Pearl Mpasi as Young Celie, Tamala J. Mann as First Lady and Stephen Hill as Buster, as well as Jon Batiste as Grady and Elizabeth Marvel as Miss Millie.
In one scene, Shug Avery shows Celie how to apply lipstick. Winfrey revealed the line was improvised and reflected, “When she says, ‘Oh, living God.’ That was an ad-libbed line that comes out of that moment when you’re with your sister and you’re looking at her in lipstick for the first time and you’re happy for her.”
During the trailer launch event, Winfrey was asked about the need to retell the story of “The Color Purple” almost 40 years later. Winfrey, who serves as a producer on the film replied, “The reason this moment is so important is as long there is a need for self-discovery, self-empowerment, as long as there is a need for victory in someone’s life as long, as there is a need for people to know what it feels like to be loved up and to be made full and hold to somebody else’s love, there will be a need for ‘The Color Purple.’”
With the film’s Christmas day release, Winfrey and Bazawule hope the film’s message will bring healing. Winfrey recalled a conversation she had recently had with Fantasia, saying “The movie changed her because it allowed her to forgive. She said, ‘People coming to this movie will be healed because I was healed.’”
Based on a 1982 novel by Alice Walker, “The Color Purple” centers on Celie, a Black Southern woman in the early 20th century who is abused by her father and husband. Three years after the book’s publication, in 1985, Spielberg directed and produced a movie adaptation starring Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Laurence Fishburne. The film received 11 Academy Award nominations, including best picture.
In 2004, “The Color Purple” was adapted into a Tony-nominated musical written by playwright Marsha Norman with music and lyrics by Stephen Bray, Brenda Russell and Allee Willis. The critically acclaimed production received 11 Tony nominations. The 2016 revival earned four Tony nominations and scored two wins, including best musical revival and best actress for Cynthia Erivo’s performance as Celie. (Brooks was nominated the actress in a featured role prize for her performance as Sofia.)
Bazawule (“Black Is King”) directed the film from a script by Marcus Gardley (“The Chi”). Steven Spielberg, Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones also serve as producers. Author Alice Walker, Rebecca Walker, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Carla Gardini, Mara Jacobs, Adam Fell, Courtenay Valenti, Sheila Walcott and Michael Beugg are executive producers.
Joining Bazawule behind the camera are director of photography Dan Laustsen, production designer Paul Denham Austerberry and editor Jon Poll. The choreographer is Fatima Robinson (“Coming 2 America,” “Dreamgirls”) and the costumes are designed by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck (“Emancipation,” “One Night in Miami”). Music supervisors are Jordan Carroll and Morgan Rhodes; the music is by Kris Bowers; and the executive music producers are Nick Baxter, Bray and Bazawule.
Watch the trailer below.