Taraji P. Henson to Play Shug Avery in New Film Adaptation of The Color Purple

Taraji P. Henson to Play Shug Avery in New Film Adaptation of The Color Purple

Taraji P. Henson has been tapped to play the role of blues singer Shug Avery in Warner Bros.’ upcoming film adaptation of The Color Purple, based on a 2005 Broadway musical (revived in 2015) that was itself based on Alice Walker’s 1982 eponymous novel.

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Other cast members are to include Corey Hawkins and H.E.R., as reported by Variety this week. The film, directed by Blitz Bazawule, is slated for release during Christmas week, 2023.

This is not the first time the Pulitzer-winning novel has lent itself to a screen adaptation. Steven Spielberg directed a feature based on the book in 1985, which presented Oprah Winfrey in her movie debut, garnering her an Oscar nomination. Margaret Avery played Shug in that Spielberg version. This time around, Oprah will be producing the film under her Harpo Films imprint together with Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment marque. Other producers include Scott Sanders and Quincy Jones, who composed the score for Spielberg’s 1985 adaptation.

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Other principals in the new Warner Bros.

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version include Marcus Gardley as screenwriter, adapting his work from Marsha Norman’s book. Credits for the score belong to Brenda Russell, Alice Willis, and Stephen Bray. Executive producers include, among others, author Alice Walker and her daughter Rebecca.

Henson is no stranger to stardom. In 2008, she was nominated for an Academy Award for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, in which she played opposite Brad Pitt. She also appeared in Empire, Hidden Figures, Proud Mary, and What Men Want. More recently she starred as Miss. Hannigan in NBC’s Annie Live! and was honored as the NAACP’s Entertainer of the Year in 2015. She also launched her own production company, TPH Entertainment, and a line of haircare products, TPH by Taraji.

For his part, Bazawule comes to the project with a fair share of directorial credentials, including Beyoncé’s Black Is King, The Burial of Kojo, and Cherish the Day. The Color Purple has long been embroiled in controversy for its frank language and realistic character descriptions, and has frequently been the target of censorship crusaders who find it unsuitable for high-school curricula.

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