Post Number: 62
|Posted on Wednesday, February 09, 2005 - 02:31 pm: |
Sorry...I don't have the source for this:
Zora's Due: TV Brings Hurston To Life
LOS ANGELES - In producing a television movie of her
favorite love story, Oprah Winfrey lined up good friend
Halle Berry to star, entrusted the script to a Pulitzer
Prize-winning playwright and lavished attention on the
project. Yet the talk-show queen has a long-term hope for
"Their Eyes Were Watching God," the film of the 1937 novel
by Zora Neale Hurston, Eatonville, Fla.'s most celebrated
"My goal is to get as many people to see it as possible and
to elevate Zora Neale Hurston," Winfrey says. "If two weeks
after the film Zora Neale Hurston's name is on the
best-seller list, we would have won." Oscar-winner Berry
takes the central role of Janie Crawford, whose search for
fulfillment takes place in Central Florida. The film will
air from 9 to 11:30 p.m. EST March 6 on ABC.
"To be a part of bringing Zora's work to life is something
that will be a part of my legacy," Berry says. "It's not
just making movies for the sense of entertaining. It's
actually doing something much deeper." Hurston became a
leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance of the early 20th
century with books that used dialect to explore black
culture, and "Their Eyes Were Watching God" is regarded as
her masterpiece. The novel tells of Janie's tumultuous
relationships with three men and includes a devastating
The film represents a major turning point in the author's
legacy, says Valerie Boyd, who wrote the Hurston biography
"Wrapped in Rainbows" that came out two years ago.
"Occasionally, I'm still surprised how many people are not
aware of her or haven't read her books," Boyd says. "This TV
adaptation will change all that. It catapults her into pop
culture, into the mainstream. What's more mainstream than
ABC and Oprah Winfrey and Halle Berry?"
Hurston died in penniless obscurity in 1960. Alice Walker,
author of "The Color Purple," helped revive interest in
Hurston with a 1975 essay for Ms. magazine about finding the
novelist's unmarked grave in Fort Pierce, Fla.
The fascination with Hurston has grown steadily during the
past 30 years, from biographies to a postage stamp to the
Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts and Humanities. That
event, marking its 16th year, runs Wednesday through Sunday
around Central Florida.
N.Y. Nathiri, the festival's general manager, says the
maverick heroine and older woman-younger man love story in
"Their Eyes Were Watching God" are likely to hook viewers.
"If you sit there and listen, you're going to be drawn in,"
Nathiri says. "Having it on television is almost like she
(Hurston) could be rediscovered. To people not reading, it's
going to make an impact."
Winfrey and her colleagues went the television route rather
than the big screen to reach those possible readers.
"We all know the fickleness of the film industry," Berry
says. "Television is easy: Turn on the TV, it's free and
watch it. That was the way for us to reach the masses."
Winfrey will promote the movie from her high-rated talk show
, and she met the nation's TV critics Sunday to explain her
passion for Hurston's work.
"I love, love, love this book," Winfrey says. "Other than
`The Color Purple,' I've never loved a book as much."
Winfrey never picked "Their Eyes Were Watching God" for her
book club because she dreamed of making a movie. She and
legendary musician Quincy Jones halted a bidding war for the
rights to buy them together. Jones is listed as co-executive
"It's important for us to see African-Americans in a light
that allows not only the history and legacy of the culture
but to show love," Winfrey says. "That's often not seen in a
way that people can relate to." Suzan-Lori Parks, who won
the Pulitzer for the play "Topdog/Underdog," wrote the
teleplay. Emmy-winner Ruby Dee and Tony-winner Ruben
Santiago-Hudson have crucial supporting roles.
Winfrey called Berry about doing the film the day after the
actress won the Oscar for "Monster's Ball" three years ago.
Berry agreed immediately.
Berry's ability to play emotional turmoil thrills Anna
Lillios, an associate professor of English at the University
of Central Florida who's working on a Hurston biography.
"She's my idea of Janie," Lillios says. "Janie was
beautiful. There are a lot of details about her beautiful
hair, about her trying to find herself. The whole book turns
on the personality of Janie."
But Berry says she's feeling a lot of pressure about the
role because many of the book's fans have warned her not to
mess it up. The novel has become required reading in many
colleges and high schools.
The TV film has been in the works for nine years, and
shooting was put off twice to accommodate Berry's big-screen
schedule. Filming took 33 days - 31 in California and two in
Central Florida - while most TV movies average 18 to 22
days. "We didn't have to rush," says Quinn Taylor, ABC's
senior vice president of movies. "You can't rush a
performance like that. Kate Forte insists on making the
Executive producer Forte runs Winfrey's Harpo Films in Los
Angeles. They have been responsible for Emmy-winning
adaptations of Mitch Albom's "Tuesdays With Morrie" and
Connie May Fowler's "Before Women Had Wings." Taylor
describes "Their Eyes Were Watching God" as Disney-owned
ABC's biggest movie this season.
"People talk about cable movies - I'll put this movie
against them because of its sensuality, its adult nature,
its message," Taylor says.
Winfrey boasts that the film contains "the best on-screen
kiss I've ever seen" and applauds ABC for keeping it in. But
Winfrey's thoughts keep coming back to Hurston and the hope
that the film gives the author "the kind of stature that she
deserved when she was alive."
"More important than anything, I just hope that it
introduces the book to high-school kids and reading moms and
a public that probably never would have heard of her,"
Would Winfrey ever tell Hurston's life story?
"We'll first wait and see how this is received," she says of
the "Their Eyes" film. "You have to introduce her to the
public before you can tell her story."