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Movement On HBO’s ‘Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks’ Film Adaptation. ‘True Blood’ Exec Producer Will Pen Script

Movement On HBO's 'Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' Film Adaptation. 'True Blood' Exec Producer Will Pen Script

An update to a project first announced in 2010 – a project I actually thought was very likely dead, given how much time has passed since its initial revealing. 

In 2010, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films acquired rights to the bestselling non-fiction novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, written by Rebecca Skloot, which tells the story of Lacks, a poor African America Baltimore mother of five, who died of cervical cancer in 1951 at age 31, and whose cancerous cells were removed from her body and cultured for medical research by doctors at Johns Hopkins (without her family’s knowledge), which led to significant breakthroughs in medical research, ranging from aiding the development of the cure for polio to AIDS-related treatments.

But that doesn’t even begin to really uncover the story of this mostly unknown black woman, her family, and the contributions she unknowingly made to science. I read the book a couple of years ago, and it’s an absolutely riveting read! There’s a lot of meat here, a lot I didn’t know before I started reading it, and I can see why Oprah would be interested in making a film based on Lack’s story, and aftermath.

Oprah reportedly loved the book so much that she “couldn’t put it down,” as she said almost 4 years ago, and read all 384 pages in one sitting. Plans were for a film adaptation that was said to be high on HBO’s priority list, thanks to Oprah’s encouragement. After almost 4 years, just how much of a “priority” was it for HBO?

The book was published in February of 2010, so it’s still relatively fresh, and I encourage you to pick up a copy if you haven’t.

It’s been announced this week that True Blood executive producer Alexander Woo, has been tapped by HBO to pen the adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Alan Ball and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films are of course shepherding the project. 

No ETA on the completed project just yet.

In the meantime, I learned of this old documentary on Henrietta Lacks and her so-called “immortal cell line.” It’s titled The Way of All Flesh. It’s not comprehensive, and shouldn’t be relied on as a sole source. Consider it a companion to the book, which you should read.

It’s 55 minutes long, and embedded below:

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D. Henderson

I bet you don’t want it to become a movie. I think that people have a right to know that Henrietta Lacks’ stolen cells helped with so many things. What’s tasteless is the fact that her family is struggling to pay medical bills while people are making billions off of Henrietta’s cells…..without her permission or the permission of her loved ones I might add! There is no way that her family should not have medical insurance when Henrietta has helped contribute so much to things like IVF, vaccines for polio, etc. Come on now…..that’s RIDICULOUS!!!!

Carla Herrera-Ontiveros

I loved this book and cannot wait to see the movie. I hope the family off Henrietta will be greatly compensated after all she has given all of us. It is only right that they benefit.


I would love to see this as a mini-series. This story deserves it!


Actually this book is now part of the 10th grade ELA Common Core in New York State. I read it in one sitting. It’s riveting.

Rannette Farley

Soooooo, Henrietta Lacks cells were stolen.

Ron Lacks

Ms.Skloot book is not nonfiction, I don’t know what family she was talking about in her book, but that’s not my family!! If you want to meet the real Lacks family visit us on facebook at Ron Lacks. Just because they put in a book doesn’t make it true.

M. Olesky

I hope this is never made into a scripted movie with actors. There’s something very tasteless about it. It’s a great book, and there could be a fantastic tie-in documentary. I can’t imagine anyone being able to turn such a complex subject into a movie. I hope the Lacks family prevents this from being made.


Absolutely loved this book! The details of this family's life are filled with enough drama to make a couple of movies, no joke. It is in a category I see refered to as "creative nonfiction," a name I found confusing at first. I think they just gave a name to something that already existed, but had never been called anything except nonfiction before. Supposedly, a "nonfiction novel" is a nonfiction book with a distinct narrative that uses techniques usually associated with novels to tell a story with facts.


white women telling stories about black women stay winning


"non-fiction novel"?

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