The official first look at The Color Purple (2023) is here, and we’re already tearing up.
The Color Purple’s universal narrative of joy, struggle, and sisterhood has already lived many lives, from the Pulitzer Prize–winning 1982 novel by Alice Walker, to the acclaimed 1985 Steven Spielberg film, to the 2005 stage musical and 2016 Tony Award–winning revival. On Christmas Day 2023, the latest reimagining of the beloved tale will arrive: a major movie musical, shepherded by trailblazing media mogul Oprah Winfrey and Black Is King director Blitz Bazawule. While presenting the trailer’s debut at a virtual event, Winfrey called the epic project “a revival for hope, joy, [and] forgiveness” for a new generation.
“I think that this is a family film, a sisterhood film, an individual film for anybody who wants to feel a sense of hopefulness in these times, a sense of triumph for themselves, and joy,” Winfrey told journalists during a virtual event.
The movie follows the life of Celie (played as a child and an adult by Phylicia Pearl Mpasi and Fantasia Barrino, respectively), a young woman living in post-antebellum rural Georgia who finds strength and hope through her unbreakable connection with her sister Nettie (Halle Bailey). In the trailer, we see Celie meet the women who will inspire her throughout her life, soundtracked by a preview of the musical’s showstopper, “I’m Here.”
Led by Barrino in her feature-film debut, the star-studded cast includes a breathtaking range of both industry veterans and rising stars, including Taraji P. Henson, Danielle Brooks, Colman Domingo, Corey Hawkins, H.E.R., Ciara, David Alan Grier, and Louis Gossett Jr.
As shown in the trailer, the new iteration of the story will follow Celie’s journey of self-discovery through bold musical numbers spanning the history of Black music, evolving through genres like gospel, jazz, and blues. Bazawule said he wanted to use “the most epic, boldest visual motifs” while highlighting the moments of love and joy found within the day-to-day survival that makes up a life.
“I feel like often when we think about specifically African-American life, there’s a tendency to narrow it down to the struggles, but nobody gets here without the duality of joy and pain. For me, I knew that it was going to be a triumphant journey through struggle,” he said. He added that when you put the visual storytelling, music, and excellent cast all together, “you have a tapestry that’s beautiful, that’s joyous … that’s healing.”
The trailer’s release is also a full-circle moment for Winfrey, who serves as producer alongside Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones, who, respectively, directed and produced the 1985 film, in which she portrayed Sofia. While reflecting on a story that has been part of her life for almost 40 years, Winfrey emphasized the importance of this new version.
“The reason this moment is so important is, as long there is a need for self-discovery [and] self-empowerment, as long as there is a need for victory in someone’s life, as long as there is a need for people to know what it feels like to be loved up and to be made full and hold to somebody else’s love, there will be a need for The Color Purple,” she said.
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