Oprah Winfrey is heading back to the movie biz. Nearly a year after her previous film, Lee Daniels' The Butler, was released in theaters, Indiewire is reporting that Winfrey has taken on a role in the upcoming Ava DuVernay film Selma, which takes place during the civil rights movement in Selma, Alabama.
Winfrey will portray civil rights hero Annie Lee Cooper, who gained attention in 1965 outside of the Dallas County courthouse in 1965 when she got into a confrontation with then-Sheriff James G. Clark. Specifically, she was trying to register to vote, he asked her to leave then "poked her in the back of the neck with either a billy club or a cattle prod," and she in response turned around and punched him in the jaw. She was arrested and charged with assault and attempted murder—but was released after 11 hours in prison because, as Indiewire explains, "they were afraid Clark would come back in and beat her."
Cooper was mentioned by Martin Luther King Jr. in a speech he gave in Brown Chapel whilst she was in prison:
This is what happened today: Mrs. Cooper was down in that line, and they haven’t told the press the truth about it. Mrs. Cooper wouldn’t have turned around and hit Sheriff Clark just to be hitting. And of course, as you know, we teach a philosophy of not retaliating and not hitting back, but the truth of the situation is that Mrs. Cooper, if she did anything, was provoked by Sheriff Clark. At that moment, he was engaging in some very ugly business-as-usual action. This is what brought about that scene there.
Winfrey joins an already large cast featuring: "David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, Ledisi, Keith Stanfield, Henry G. Sanders, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Niecy Nash, and Kent Faulcon. Winfrey is also producing, in conjunction with Brad Pitt’s Plan B and Slumdog Millionaire producer Christian Colson.