Oprah Winfrey Will Have a Role In “Selma” Movie as Activist Annie Lee Cooper

Freedom rider... Oprah Winfrey at the Santa Barbara film festival this year. Photograph: Jim Smeal/BEI/Rex
Freedom rider… Oprah Winfrey at the Santa Barbara film festival this year. Photograph: Jim Smeal/BEI/Rex

Oprah Winfrey is to take a role in Selma, a forthcoming film about Martin Luther King and the US civil rights movement, which she is also producing.

The film focuses on the mid-1960s fight for voting rights that centred on the town of Selma, Alabama, which was systematically denying its black citizens the right to vote – by means of everything from obfuscating the voting process to outright intimidation and violence. Selma became the starting point for a series of marches, led by Martin Luther King, the third of which reached the state capital, Montgomery. The brutality inflicted on the marchers helped to turn public opinion in the US against the south’s white law enforcers, and catalysed the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in voting.

The chapter is regarded as one of the most emotional and intense of the civil rights struggle, and further cemented Martin Luther King as its figurehead. He will be played in the movie by the British actor David Oyelowo, who previously acted opposite Winfrey in Lee Daniels’ film The Butler.

Winfrey meanwhile will play Annie Lee Cooper, a 54-year-old woman who punched the notoriously racist county sheriff Jim Clark after he denied her the right to register to vote. She was briefly jailed but later released. Tom Wilkinson will play the president, Lyndon B Johnson, who ends up passing the bill, while Tim Roth and Cuba Gooding Jr will take supporting roles.

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SOURCE: The Guardian
Ben Beaumont-Thomas