While most people know “The Color Purple” as the highly acclaimed 1985 movie directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Danny Glover, Rae Dawn Chong, Whoopi Goldberg, and Oprah Winfrey, it was actually based on a book.
Written by Alice Walker, the novel, which has the same name as the film, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction on April 18, 1983, which made Walker the first Black woman to win the award.
Alice Walker at the Broadway Theatre December 1, 2005 in New York City | Source: Getty Images
In her book, the author depicted the lives of African-American women living in the Deep South in the early 1900s. Even though it addressed different topics, it is focused on the life of Celie.
Celie, portrayed by Goldberg on the big screen, is shown as a young girl who suffered extreme emotional and physical abuse by her father Alphonso, played by the late Leonard Jackson.
The man even got her pregnant with a son and daughter but ultimately took them away from her. Alphonso then forced his daughter into an abusive marriage with a man known as Mister (Danny Glover’s character).
Steven Spielberg at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con International in San Diego, California | Source: WIkimedia Comons
While choosing a director for the film, Quincy Jones (one of the producers) was sure that Spielberg could make it as successful as it was. However, Walker was skeptical. Even the director was hesitant as he once told Jones that a person who could relate with African-Americans closely should take the job.
Worse, Walker was not happy with the film the first time she watched it. She was particularly unpleased with the opening sequence. Things changed when she saw it again at the premiere, though.
Although the entire cast did a fantastic job, Winfrey and Goldberg’s performances were excellent; so much so that those roles launched their careers. One of the aspects that attracted more attention was that it was the ladies’ first time working in a film.
“The Color Purple” was so acclaimed that it got 11 Academy Award nominations. While surprising, Spielberg did not receive the Best Director nomination.
Another exciting aspect of the film is that it is one of the three Spielberg-directed movies that doesn’t feature John Williams’ music. Jones and a team of 12 people were the composers.
When Celie gives birth in the film, the sound of the baby’s cries is actually Spielberg’s infant son crying. Max, the director’s son, was born during the filming process, so Spielberg added a very personal touch to the movie.
Before getting the part in “The Color Purple,” Goldberg had no experience of serious acting as she was a comedian. However, she considered herself the best person to portray the role of Sofia, so she wrote to Walker to persuade her to go to one of her comedy shows.
After a while, Goldberg got a call for the auditions but, instead of playing Sofia and see if it worked, Goldberg staged a comedy act in front of Spielberg, Jones, and Michael Jackson featuring the arrest of E.T. for drug possession.
When the audition process ended, Winfrey didn’t get the call from anyone for a long time, so she assumed she had not got the part. Soon later, she checked into a weight-loss program in Wisconsin.
However, Spielberg contacted her to tell her that she got the role and warned her against losing weight.
Thankfully, everything worked out just as Spielberg wanted it, and now “The Color Purple” is considered one of the greatest movies in the 80s despite drawing criticism for its harsh depiction of Black men.