Just when you thought you were getting weary of Hollywood remaking your favourite films and TV shows, entertainment mogul Oprah Winfrey has entered the chat with a reimagining that you won’t be able to skip over: The Color Purple. More than 40 years after the release of Alice Walker’s life-changing Pulitzer-award novel and the Oscar-nominated film inspired by it, The Color Purple is set to return to the big screen, and now that the trailer is here, it’s clear that this musical take on one of the most important stories in American culture will be everything we wanted it to be and more.
The Color Purple follows the heartbreaking coming-of-age story of Celie, a young girl who faces devastating personal challenges while growing up in the Jim Crow South. Though Walker’s novel was first published in 1982, the journey of her resilient protagonist has transcended time, taking on different but equally moving forms over the years. In 1985, the Stephen Spielberg-directed cinematic take on the story cast Whoopi Goldberg as Celie and Winfrey as Sofia, and the book was adapted again into a Broadway musical in 2005. The success of these adaptations proves that the magic of Walker’s pen and the world that she created resonates with generation after generation — so much so that it warranted another cinematic exploration.
Set to dominate the box office with a Christmas Day release, the forthcoming interpretation of The Color Purple fuses elements of both of its beloved adaptations for a star studded musical film directed by Blitz Bazawule and produced by Winfrey, Spielberg, Quincy Jones, and Scott Sanders. In the highly anticipated trailer, released earlier this afternoon, we see vocal powerhouse Fantasia Barrino take on the role of Celie once again (she previously played the part in its early Broadway run, and newcomer Phylicia Mpasi will play her younger version) to provide a rich cinematic investigation of the consequences of generational trauma. She’s joined by an equally talented lineup of some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Halle Bailey, H.E.R., Corey Hawkins, and Ciara.
Remakes can be tricky; there’s a reason why so many of us have been resistant toward the bevvy of reboots that have propped up in the last few years. But when the A-list cast of The Color Purple was first announced in February 2022, any doubts anyone might have had about it respecting the legacy of the original work were immediately set aside. With every new casting announcement, excitement and curiosity about the film only grew — the exact feelings that Bazawule hoped to elicit from the moment he signed on to helm the project.
“I cast with my heart,” Bazawule shared of his decision-making, which started with hiring Fantasia as the lead, during a press conference for The Color Purple. “But I believe deeply in people with an endless well of lived experience who can relate naturally to what you’re asking them to do…’Where in the narrative are we? And who’s the right person to take over?’”
To bring something new to the beloved story, Bazawule revealed that his inspired take will rely heavily on magical realism and music, promising show-stopping, out-of-this world performances that simultaneously reflect Celie’s journey and highlight the beauty of African American culture. His hope isn’t to replace previous adaptations — that’s simply impossible — but to build upon them in order to create an even richer narrative.
“The bar is so high,” Bazawule admitted. “But when I sat with Stephen [Spielberg], Oprah [Winfrey], Scott Sanders, and the Warner Brothers team, and it was clear that they were going to allow us to really expand the canon of The Color Purple.”
Winfrey, who has been involved with every iteration of the story since its 1982 film adaptation, is proud to take a different part in its evolution this time around and described her role in it as a producer as a “full circle moment.” (“My name wasn’t on the poster [for the original movie], but it is on the trailer for the reimagining almost 40 years later!” she joked during the press conference. “There is a God!”) But she’s not just buzzing over the new producer credits — Winfrey is also thrilled that this narrative will get yet another opportunity to resonate with another new generation.
“This story just grows, and it never grows old,” said Winfrey. “For as long as there is a need for self-discovery, for self-empowerment, for victory in someone’s life, for people to know what it feels like to be loved up and to be made whole through somebody else’s love, there will be a need for The Color Purple.”
Between Walker’s novel and the award-winning film and Broadway musical that it inspired, The Color Purple has solidified itself in the zeitgeist of American culture, and from the looks of its trailer, the 2023 reimagining is on track to be just as impactful. Prepare the tissues (and the Oscar nominations) — The Color Purple is coming.
The Color Purple hits UK cinemas January 26th, 2024.