While much of the Warner Bros. presentation at CinemaCon was dressed in pink in celebration of “Barbie,” they devoted a portion of their presentation to the first look at “The Color Purple,” its star-studded musical adaptation of the Alice Walker novel and the first time the story has been brought to the big screen since Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film. And they brought out producer Oprah Winfrey to talk about how special the new film is to her.
Director Blitz Bazawule, who is known for Beyoncé’s “Black Is King,” introduced the musical adaptation at CinemaCon alongside Winfrey and gave the first look at the sweeping and striking cinematography in the film’s trailer. The movie is described as “not your mama’s ‘Color Purple,'” and we got to see star Danielle Brooks as Celie belt out the song “Hell No” as the backdrop to the trailer.
Winfrey said the film is a brand new version that is a “celebration of sisterhood,” one that has both “magical realism” and “wholesome, wonderful family goodness.” And it’s for that reason that the film will help bring out “the groups in the seats” when the film opens in theaters.
“They are survivors because of their inner strength, and that is how Celie especially finds her voice. And in this film, boy does she have a voice,” Winfrey said.
“The Color Purple’s” cast is stacked, including leads Taraji P. Henson, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor (in her debut role), Danielle Brooks, all three of whom were interviewed by Winfrey on stage at the Caesar’s Palace Colosseum. Winfrey was surprised to learn not only that Henson could sing but that Barrino-Taylor had demonstrated the courage to act alongside some real heavy hitters in the cast. And the film also stars Halle Bailey, H.E.R., Aunjanae Ellis-Taylor, Corey Hawkins, Louis Gosset Jr., Colman Domingo, Jon Batiste, and more. Warner Bros. is surely hoping that the film has the same Oscar potential that its predecessor did, which was nominated for 11 Oscars, including Best Picture.
The film’s story is timeless, following a Black Southern woman named Celie during the early 1900s in rural Georgia as she tries to find her identity and writes letter to God amid enduring abuse at the hands of her father across years. The stage musical however first premiered on Broadway in 2005, but it was also revived in 2015 and featured stars like Cynthia Erivo and Jennifer Hudson in the Broadway revival.
Winfrey also discussed how important this film was and remains today in shaping her journey and career, and she told the new film’s stars about how when she was given the opportunity, it felt like an out of body experience.
“I was so out of my body the whole time, so I’m asking you to stay in your body, stay present, and enjoy it all, this Purple experience,” she said.
“The Color Purple” musical opens in theaters Christmas Day, December 25, 2023.