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Oprah Winfrey will Play Annie Lee Cooper in Ava DuVernay's 'Selma'

by Tambay A. Obenson
June 11, 2014 12:06 PM
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Oprah Winfrey

With principal photography underway, Ava DuVernay's "Selma" cast continues to expand - this time adding Oprah Winfrey (who's also a producer on the film by the way).

Ms Winfrey will play Annie Lee Cooper, a civil rights hero, who gained notoriety in 1965 for a confrontation with then Sheriff James G. Clark, outside the Dallas County (in Selma) courthouse, where she was attempting to register to vote. The 54-year-old Cooper was ordered to go home by the Sheriff; according to reports I read, she claimed that he poked her in the back of the neck with either a billy club or a cattle prod, which prompted her to turn around and deliver a solid right hook to the sheriff’s jaw, dropping him to the ground. 

Deputies wrestled Cooper down on the ground, arrested her, charged her with assault, and attempted murder. Newspapers from the time said she was detained in jail for 11 hours. Sheriff’s deputies eventually released her because they were afraid Clark would come back in and beat her. 

As she sat in jail, Martin Luther King Jr. made a historic speech in Brown Chapel. Here’s what he said about Cooper: “This is what happened today: Mrs. Cooper was down in that line, and they haven’t told the press the truth about it. Mrs. Cooper wouldn’t have turned around and hit Sheriff Clark just to be hitting. And of course, as you know, we teach a philosophy of not retaliating and not hitting back, but the truth of the situation is that Mrs. Cooper, if she did anything, was provoked by Sheriff Clark. At that moment, he was engaging in some very ugly business-as-usual action. This is what brought about that scene there.” 

Cooper lived to see 100 years old. She passed away just 4 years ago actually, in 2010.

Oprah joins a cast that includes David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Tom Wilkinson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, Ledisi as Mahalia Jackson, Keith Stanfield as Jimmie Lee Jackson, Henry G. Sanders playing Cager Lee, Jimmie Lee Jackson's grandfather, Andre Holland as Andrew Young, Tessa Thompson as Diane Nash, Niecy Nash as play Richie Jean Jackson, wife of Dr. Sullivan Jackson, who will be played by Kent Faulcon, in a film produced by Oprah Winfrey, Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Christian Colson (who won an Oscar for producing "Slumdog Millionaire"). 

Paramount Pictures is also on board the Pathe UK-backed project.

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More: Oprah Winfrey, Ava DuVernay

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  • . | June 13, 2014 5:38 PMReply


  • Donella | June 13, 2014 1:19 PMReply

    I'm very pleased to see Oprah lending her well-proven public profile and worldwide reach to assist another sister.

    She put Tyler on. She put Barack on. She put Lee on. Now she's putting Ava on. I happen to love it!

  • Donella | June 18, 2014 11:46 AM

    Barack did need Oprah in order to win Iowa from Hillary in the primary. He would not have been able to convince Iowans to swing his way without Oprah's support.

    After Iowa, confidence in Barack Obama's ability to win rose enough to win more states.

  • You Dont Know | June 13, 2014 2:08 PM

    Barack had his own thing going and didn't need Oprah one way or the other.

    As for those others, well.. let's just say the gay agenda is alive and well in Hollywood.

  • kid video | June 12, 2014 3:10 PMReply

    I auditioned to be an extra in the film this past tuesday in selma...their only filming in selma this monday/tuesday...then Montgomery on wed/thurs.
    Most of the film will be shot in Georgia.

  • oprahty | June 12, 2014 7:22 AMReply

    Opinions are overrated.

  • troublemaker | June 12, 2014 1:19 AMReply

    I see Ms. Winfrey is still going after that Oscar.

  • RANDOM COMMENTARY | June 13, 2014 10:34 AM

    @ ALP LOL for real. It's only funny because its true.

  • Marie | June 12, 2014 10:37 AM

    Yes, she is! I'll at least give her props for producing, too, though.

  • alp | June 12, 2014 3:24 AM

    Look, there's no WAY Oprah's going to sit back and relax while Mo'Nique still walks the earth with an actually-earned Oscar. You better BELIEVE that..

  • ross | June 11, 2014 2:37 PMReply

    A noble lady the real Annie Lee was. I'm glad Duvernay is including the women of the movement. Good for Oprah for making it happen.

  • chez lopez | June 11, 2014 1:45 PMReply

    Seriously?! Oprah keeps revising the same role. Can't she do something out of character? Be in a Disney movie or something. She weighs down a film with this heaviness and faux nobility. Everything she does has to be seen as so important. Give it a rest.

  • Ol'Skool | June 13, 2014 11:57 AM

    "Oprah isn't a genuine actress... she's basically adapted the Curtis Jackson approach. Fund your own projects and create your own opportunities."

    Oh boy, listen, piggy backing off the Pantene shampoo commercial's tagline "Don't hate me because I am beautiful" don't hate on Curtis and Oprah "because they have it like that."

    Look, most actors are not in a position to be as selective in the roles they accept (produce, direct and/or act in) as Oprah and Curtis. It's safe to say that if they were as fortunate as Fifty and Oprah, they too would select films that played to their strong suit.

    So again, don't hate on Oprah and Mr. Jackson because they got it like that. :-)

  • Ol'Skool | June 13, 2014 11:24 AM

    @ Random Commentary, I guess we'll put our disagreements in the "subjective" category. Latifah may have worked for you as the male's love interest in Just Wright and Last Holiday but for me and many others, not so much. Well, the devil's in the details, what did their box office say?

    In reference to Oprah's range, I have to disagree. I mean, are you referring to her ability (or inability) to reach and project several human emotions and thus she's limited to the roles she can accept? If that's your position I vehemently disagree. Oprah has shown tremendous range which I believe many actors would die for.

    But again, we both agree that she's well aware of her strong suit. So hey, if it's not broke, why fix it?

  • RANDOM COMMENTARY | June 13, 2014 10:31 AM

    I give Oprah props for coming on as a producer. I also agree with your heaviness and faux nobility observation.

    OL'SKOOL is right about an actor knowing their lane. I disagree with the Queen Latifah comment. Her role in Just Wright and Last Holiday was more than believable.

    Oprah isn't a genuine actress, she's a celebrity actress that pigeon holed herself into playing Sofia type roles. Other than her voice-over roles, she knows matriarchal roles are her strong suit. So she's an actor of limited range with limitless opportunities as a producer/actor.

    She's basically adapted the Curtis Jackson approach. Fund your own projects and create your own opportunities.

  • Tanya | June 12, 2014 3:13 PM

    She Is A Woman Committed To Telling OUR STORY. The Ugly TRUTH Of Our HISTORY! I COMMEND HER FOR THIS.

  • Ol'Skool | June 12, 2014 12:02 PM

    Silly rabbits... it's obvious neither of you are actors, or accomplished actors. A seasoned actor knows their lane and the roles their audience will accept then in. Oprah is nobodies fool, she knows what works for her. Check this, Oprah appearing in a Disney movie would be as foolish as Queen Latifah playing a man's love interest.

    "Once again, a genuine black actress loses out on a choice role to this wannabe"

    Really?! That's unadulterated hater talk because Oprah IS a genuine black actress. On the other hand, it's quite possible the two of you are the wannabes.

  • Marie | June 12, 2014 10:44 AM

    I completely agree, especially with your "heaviness and faux nobility" observation. That's exactly why I DON'T take her seriously as an actor. Genuine actors take their life's experiences and channel them into diverse performances (see Viola Davis.) Winfrey, on the other hand, seems able to play only "pain" and "noble victim." Once again, a genuine black actress loses out on a choice role to this wannabe.

  • bread free | June 11, 2014 12:19 PMReply

    Sounds like another Sofia role for Oprah to play.

  • And, Bread Free, your point? | June 11, 2014 12:48 PM

    What's your point? What are you implying?

    Many are of the opinion that Oprah killed the role of Sofia, as she did the role of Gloria Gaines in The Butler, leaving many to believe she's an accomplished actress who will pay big dividends in Ava Duvernay's "Selma".

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