Oprah Winfrey said she didn’t know much about acting when she joined The Color Purple.
Although the talk show host had spent quite a bit of time in front of the camera, she’d never worked on a major motion picture before. During her recent roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter, Winfrey opened up about her experience on the set of the classic film.
Since she’d spent so much time working on television, Oprah Winfrey brought her bag of tricks with her. Unfortunately for the former Queen of Daytime TV, she had a few things to learn about shooting a movie.
“I didn’t know anything about acting. I’d never even been to Universal Studios. So I walked in, first scene, first day…I looked directly in the camera because that’s what you do on television. I walked in and went, ‘How you doing, Miss Celie’ and he went, ‘Cut! Cut! Cut! What is wrong with you?’ And I’m standing there, trembling. [I was] terrified,” she said.
Sadly, Winfrey’s troubles on the set didn’t end there. When Steven Spielberg asked her to cry in the background of one scene, the actress said she had a difficult time conjuring the tears. As a result, everyone stood around waiting for Oprah to start weeping.
Winfrey said of this embarrassing moment:
“There was a scene where [Spielberg] asked me to cry. I loved being in that film so much, it just changed everything in my life, and I came to set even when I didn’t have to work, and I’d be in the background crying. So Steven goes, ‘I want you to do that this afternoon.’ Well, I had no idea how to make that happen again. I had no technical skills, and when the scene was being filmed, I couldn’t cry. I could hear the film turning in the camera, and the entire room waiting for me to cry.”
According to E! Online, Oprah Winfrey didn’t have to struggle on her own for very long. The ColorPurple co-star Adolph Caesar eventually offered up some friendly advice.
“You need to learn to give yourself over to the character. Let the character take control. And if she wants to cry, she’ll cry, and if she doesn’t, not even Steven Spielberg can make her,” Caesar explained. Oprah said this was “the greatest acting lesson” she’d ever received.
Winfrey would follow up her turn in The Color Purple with Jerrold Freedman’s Native Son and the classic television movie The Women of Brewster Place. Oprah would later join her Color Purple co-star Danny Glover in Jonathan Demme’s adaptation of Beloved.
Are you surprised Oprah Winfrey had trouble crying while filming The Color Purple?