“The Color Purple” had its fair share of versions from a film to a Broadway show, but its latest adaptation harbored a different vision.
The Color Purple hit the big screens first in 1985 which Steven Spielberg directed. Vox reported that In 2004, it turned into a Broadway musical through Gary Griffin. The movie received a new adaptation in 2023 with Blitz Bazawule helming the film.
Fortune mentioned Fantasia Barrino, who played the lead character Celie in the Broadway musical in 2007 after replacing LaChanze, hesitated to reprise her role. Bazawule provided her with a new vision for the character, which made her reconsider.
A new vision for The Color Purple
The Associated Press reported that Alice Walker’s 1982 novel may be an unlikely book for bright adaptations. It narrated Celie’s letters to God and told the tale of trauma, poverty, and other stories of torment.
Bazawule found a way despite the book’s harsh life themes and instead created a maximalist spectacle for the 2023 film. Fortune mentioned that the Ghanaian filmmaker wanted to give Celie an imagination, which intrigued Barrino and led to her taking her role once again.
Fortune further reported that the director was not initially a candidate to direct the new adaptation due to having fewer experiences. He co-directed Beyoncé’s Black is King and The Burial of Kojo, which ran with a budget of less than $100,000. But he saw Celie’s journey in a different light and intended the film to have large scale musical numbers.
Bazawule knew what he wanted the movie to be. He said that if he can show the audience how a Black woman can imagine her way out of her misfortunes, it will “debunk a myth that is that people who have dealt with abusing trauma are docile and passive or waiting to be saved.” The director said that gratefully, the cast and crew agreed with his new vision.
Criticisms from the 1985 Spielberg film
In a broadcasted interview in NPR with host Ayesha Rascoe and writer Aisha Harris, it was mentioned that Spielberg’s adaptation received a lot of criticism.
Harris mentioned that a lot happened during the release of the first movie. Most controversies involved the fact that Spielberg is a white male director who directed a black woman’s story and how he handled the material. A lot of black men got upset about how the movie portrayed them as the film depicted them as violent toward their wives.
The two discussed further on what made the new movie different from the earlier adaptations. Harris answered saying that unlike the first movie, the traumatic scenes went by faster. “Let the characters really experience that emotion, as opposed to just immediately rushing into the next scene,” Harris added.
$100 million budget paid off
Oprah Winfrey joined The Color Purple crew as a film producer. She believed that the film won’t be released if Spielberg didn’t do it. The Hollywood Reporter mentioned Winfrey said the acclaimed director knew what would happen once he helmed the picture.
“He took the heat for that and it was scary for him,” Winfrey added. “I still think it is classic and extraordinary in terms of what Steven was able to do with that piece of work.”
The Hollywood Reporter referenced Winfrey once again who acknowledged the fact that there was a pressure to “ensure a hit.” She explained that the set budget was between $90 to $100 million and suddenly everyone wanted Beyoncé or Rihanna to join the film. The crew discussed that they loved the two talented singers but other actors can do the job.
Screen Rant weighed in after the movie showed in the big screens and said the production made the most out of the budget. It earned good reviews from audiences since its release on Christmas day and earned a CinemaScore of “A”. The film grossed $50 million throughout the first showing week as per Fortune.
The Color Purple told the story of Celie and her hardships and how she found strength and motivation in sisterhood.
The movie received nominations in the Golden Globes: best actress in a musical/comedy for Barrino and best supporting actress for Danielle Brooks.
Banner photo from IMDb.