*Oprah Winfrey has signed on to play the lead role in HBO Films’ “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” a feature-length adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s non-fiction best seller about an African-American woman whose cells were used to create the first immortal human cell line.
Veteran Broadway director-producer George C. Wolfe wrote the adaptation and will direct the film, which is scheduled to begin production this summer.
Told through the eyes of her daughter, Deborah Lacks (Winfrey), the film chronicles her search to learn about the mother she never knew and to understand how the unauthorized harvesting of Lacks’ cancerous cells in 1951 led to unprecedented medical breakthroughs, changing countless lives and the face of medicine forever. It’s a story of medical arrogance and triumph, race, poverty and deep friendship between the unlikeliest of people.
This has been a passion project for [Winfrey] who six years ago teamed with “Six Feet Under” and “True Blood” creator Alan Ball to produce a feature-length adaptation of Rebecca Skloot’s then-recently published non-fiction best seller though HBO Films, which acquired the book for the duo. Winfrey has now upped her involvement by committing to star in the movie.
Winfrey and Ball executive produce alongside Peter Macdissi (Cinemax’s “Banshee”), Carla Gardini (“The Hundred-Foot Journey”) and Lydia Dean Pilcher (HBO’s “You Don’t Know Jack”) the movie, a Your Face Goes Here Entertainment, Harpo Films and Cine Mosaic production. Rebecca Skloot serves co-executive producer, while Henrietta Lacks’ sons David Lacks, Jr. and Zakariyya Rahman and granddaughter Jeri Lacks are consultants.
Skloot’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which took more than a decade to research and write, instantly hit the New York Times bestseller list when it was published in February 2010 and remained there for more than four years.