chapter  9
18 Pages

FROM WALKER TO SPIELBERG Transformations of The Color Purple

WithJoan Digby

The idea of filming Alice Walker's 1983 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Color Purple, first occurred to Quincy Jones, who enlisted Steven Spielberg to co-produce it for Warner Brothers. When the project was presented to him, Spielberg had some reservations, according to David Breskin, 1 about making a film that was clearly not 'populist' and that would push him 'over a high voltage line into a kind of film he couldn't handle'; but after reading the novel and meeting just once with Alice Walker he felt compelled to co-produce and direct it. The intensity of both experiences had a transforming effect on him that would carryover into his direction. Stylistically identified with special effects, he would use none of them in this film. Nor would he work from his characteristically detailed storyboards. Instead, he pruned down to a blueprint, blocked for stage (rather than film) and pushed his actors to experience their characters dramatically emerging from a script that was rationed out daily. Indeed, as The Color Purple evolved, almost organically, into a Steven Spielberg film, transformation - the process of becoming - became the film's controlling idea.