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Movement On HBO's 'Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' Film Adaptation. 'True Blood' Exec Producer Will Pen Script

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act February 11, 2014 at 1:04PM

Movement On HBO's 'Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' Film Adaptation. 'True Blood' Exec Producer Will Pen Script
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'Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' Film Adaptation

An update to a project first announced in 2010 - a project I actually thought was very likely dead, given how much time has passed since its initial revealing. 

In 2010, Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Films acquired rights to the bestselling non-fiction novel, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, written by Rebecca Skloot, which tells the story of Lacks, a poor African America Baltimore mother of five, who died of cervical cancer in 1951 at age 31, and whose cancerous cells were removed from her body and cultured for medical research by doctors at Johns Hopkins (without her family's knowledge), which led to significant breakthroughs in medical research, ranging from aiding the development of the cure for polio to AIDS-related treatments.

But that doesn't even begin to really uncover the story of this mostly unknown black woman, her family, and the contributions she unknowingly made to science. I read the book a couple of years ago, and it's an absolutely riveting read! There's a lot of meat here, a lot I didn't know before I started reading it, and I can see why Oprah would be interested in making a film based on Lack's story, and aftermath.

Oprah reportedly loved the book so much that she "couldn't put it down," as she said almost 4 years ago, and read all 384 pages in one sitting. Plans were for a film adaptation that was said to be high on HBO's priority list, thanks to Oprah's encouragement. After almost 4 years, just how much of a "priority" was it for HBO?

The book was published in February of 2010, so it's still relatively fresh, and I encourage you to pick up a copy if you haven't.

It's been announced this week that True Blood executive producer Alexander Woo, has been tapped by HBO to pen the adaptation of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Alan Ball and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films are of course shepherding the project. 

No ETA on the completed project just yet.

In the meantime, I learned of this old documentary on Henrietta Lacks and her so-called "immortal cell line." It's titled The Way of All Flesh. It's not comprehensive, and shouldn't be relied on as a sole source. Consider it a companion to the book, which you should read.

It's 55 minutes long, and embedded below:

This article is related to: Alexander Woo, Oprah Winfrey


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