Through her company’s film division, Harpo Films, Oprah Winfrey has produced projects based on classic and contemporary literature that have garnered the highest industry honors for quality acting and production. Telefilms under the “Oprah Winfrey Presents” banner have included the award-winning Tuesdays With Morrie, based on the best-selling novel by Mitch Albom and starring Academy Award®-winner Jack Lemmon and Emmy Award®-winner Hank Azaria; Their Eyes Were Watching God, based on the Zora Neale Hurston novel and starring Academy Award®-winner Halle Berry; and Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, based on his best-selling novel and starring Emmy Award®-winner Michael Imperioli and Academy Award®-winner Ellen Burstyn.
In 1998, Harpo Films produced the critically acclaimed Beloved, a Touchstone Pictures feature film based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Toni Morrison, which co-starred Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover and was directed by Jonathan Demme.
Winfrey made her acting debut in 1985 as Sofia in Steven Spielberg’s The Color Purple, for which she received both Academy Award® and Golden Globe® nominations. She also has been lauded for her performances in the made-for-television movies Before Women Had Wings (1997), There Are No Children Here (1993), and The Women of Brewster Place (1989).
The Great Debaters is a fictional story inspired by Wiley College’s winning debate team of the early 1930s. Academy Award® winner Denzel Washington steps behind the camera for a second time to direct. He joins fellow Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker and co-stars as Melvin B. Tolson, the legendary coach. Harpo Films’ Oprah Winfrey and Kate Forte produced with Todd Black (The Pursuit of Happyness) and Joe Roth (Mona Lisa Smile).
Filmed primarily in northeastern Louisiana with a few days in east Texas, production started on May 14, and ended on July 16, 2007.
Then, production moved to Boston to film the key Harvard scenes at the prestigious Sanders Theatre in Memorial Hall as well as turning the Wang Theater’s foyer into South Station circa 1935. Monday, July 23, 2007, was the last day of filming.