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‘Harriet’ controversies didn’t stop box office success

A series of controversies surrounding the new biopic “Harriet” doesn’t appear to have kept people away opening weekend.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film earned a A+ CinemaScore from audiences and raked in $12 million from 2,059 theaters during its opening weekend.

That’s a promising starts for a film that has been plagued with complaints from the beginning.

But not everyone enjoyed the film and some took exception with the inclusion of a black bounty hunter in the film.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a South Jersey NAACP chapter canceled a screening of the film because of a $20 billion civil rights lawsuit filed by Hollywood entertainment executive Byron Allen against Comcast.

Comcast, the parent company of Focus Features which released “Harriet,” is accused in the suit by Allen of discriminating against him by refusing to carry his channels.

There have also been complaints about the casting of British actress Cynthia Erivo in the role of the African American escaped slave who led others to freedom.

That was intensified when tweets from Erivo in 2013 in which she references a “ghetto American accent” resurfaced.

Erivo, who found fame for her lead role in “Color Purple” on Broadway, told Shadow and Act in an interview that the tweets were “taken out of context without giving me the room to tell you what it meant–and it wasn’t mocking anyone really. It wasn’t for that purpose at all. It was to celebrate a song I had wrote when I was 16.”

“I would say it took a lot of hard work to get to this place [of playing Harriet Tubman] and I didn’t take it lightly,” Erivo said. “I love this woman and I love Black people full stop.”

That respect for the portrayal of Tubman, who had never been the subject of a film before, was echoed by the director Kasi Lemmons in an interview with CNN.

“[Tubman’s] presence is very powerful for me,” Lemmons said. “We were close for a couple of years is how I look at it and she brought light into my life.”

Lemmons had nothing but praise for Erivo and her performance.

“Whenever any director does a movie with somebody number one on the call sheet, she was in almost every scene, it’s a very intense relationship,” Lemmons said. “It was a really, really positive relationship and very exciting what we were able to do.”

CNN has reached out to Erivo and Lemmons for additional response.

CNN

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