Six years after she bought the rights to the best-selling book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” it’s been announced that Oprah Winfrey will produce and star in a screen adaptation for HBO. According to Variety, on Monday the cable network confirmed that the film will be in production later this summer.
Henrietta Lacks, a poor African-American woman suffering from cervical cancer, had her cells taken without her knowledge or consent by doctors at Johns Hopkins. Researchers found that unlike any other cells they seen before, Lacks’ cells could live externally and reproduced quickly. After two years, they packaged and shipped her tissue samples to labs throughout the world, which were “vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping, in vitro fertilization, and more,” the book’s website notes. Yet, Lacks, who died in 1951 at the age of 31, was never given credit for her contributions, nor was her impoverished family ever financially compensated.
The HBO version of the film will be told through the eyes of Lacks’ daughter Deborah (played by Winfrey) as she learns about the mother she can hardly remember and how her mother’s stolen cells changed “the face of medicine forever,” Variety noted.
It’s important to point out that the film’s perspective differs from the source material, which was originally told through the eyes of the book’s white author and journalist Rebecca Skloot. Meanwhile, African-American director, George C. Wolfe (Lackawanna Blues) will direct and adapted the screenplay. There is no premiere date as of yet, Variety pointed out.