The Color Purple: Release Date, Cast And Other Things We Know About The Upcoming Movie

Fantasia Barrino in The Color Purple
(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Since its publication in 1982, Alice Walker’s landmark novel, The Color Purple, has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, been turned into an Oscar-nominated film starring Oprah Winfrey, and adapted into a Tony Award-winning musical. In the near future, the timeless classic will receive yet another adaptation, one that looks to take elements from each of its predecessors to create a unique theatrical experience.

By the time the 2023 movie schedule wraps up this December, moviegoers around the world will get to see the star-studded musical period drama featuring major players on both sides of the camera, including multiple stars who have been involved with previous adaptations. If this is the first you’re hearing about it, don’t worry, because we’re about to break down everything we know about The Color Purple, including its release date, cast, and several other things that should interest long-time fans and newcomers alike.

What Is The Color Purple Release Date?

Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Those who have been eagerly awaiting the release of The Color Purple don’t have all that much time left, as the latest adaptation of Alice Walker’s novel is set to land in theaters on December 20, 2023. The release date was announced back in December 2020, at which time The Hollywood Reporter laid out the premiere calendar for Warner Bros. Pictures. Oddly enough, this is one of the few movies to not have experienced delays with its release. Maybe that will stick.

Fantasia, Taraji P. Henson, And Corey Hawkins Lead The Color Purple Cast

Fantasia in the "Lose to Win" music video; Taraji P. Henson in Hidden Figures; Corey Hawkins in In The Heights

(Image credit: J Records; 20th Century Fox; Warner Bros.)

When Steven Spielberg’s version of The Color Purple was released in December 1985, it boasted a cast that included Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Margaret Avery, and multiple other notable stars. This time around, the latest adaptation will do much of the same in terms of star power.

Leading things off is Fantasia Barrino, who will take on the role of Celie Harris, the woman whose story is at the center of the narrative, according to The Hollywood Reporter. This won’t be Barrino’s first time playing Celie, who was also portrayed by Goldberg, as the singer and actress took on the role during the 2007 Broadway musical adaptation.

Also at the top of The Color Purple cast is Taraji P. Henson, who, according to Deadline, will portray Shug Avery, the jazz and blues singer who was brought to the screen by Avery in the 1985 film adaptation. The publication has also revealed that Corey Hawkins will be playing Harpo, a role that was handled by Willard Pugh nearly 40 years ago. Other members of the cast include Colman Domingo, Danielle Brooks, Ciara, Aunjanue Ellis, Elizabeth Marvel, and The Little Mermaid’s Halle Bailey, to name  

Jon Batiste And H.E.R. Will Make Their Feature Film Acting Debuts In The Color Purple

Jon Batiste in the "Freedom" music video; H.E.R. in the " Come Through" music video

(Image credit: Verve Records; MBK Entertainment)

In addition to the large group of talented actors who will appear in the musical, The Color Purple will also feature two highly-decorated musical artists making their feature film acting debuts when it premieres later this year. Jon Batiste, the former band leader of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert who is just a Tony Award away from joining the list of EGOT winners, will be taking on the role of Grady, Taraji P. Henson’s on-screen husband, according to Variety. Despite already having an Oscar and Golden Globe, Batiste has never acted in a movie before, as the both accolades were due to his work on the Soul score in 2020. 

He won’t be the only Academy Award-winning musical artist making their acting debut here, as H.E.R., who took home the Oscar for Best Original Song at the 2021 ceremony for “Fight for You” off the Judas and the Black Messiah soundtrack, will also appear. According to Variety, H.E.R. will be playing Squeak, who was portrayed by Rae Dawn Chong in the 1985 original. 

The Color Purple Trailer Is Full Of Heart, Soul And Beautiful Dance Numbers

Fantasia Barrino in The Color Purple

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The world got its first taste of the heart, soul, and beautiful dance numbers at the center of The Color Purple when Warner Bros. released the first trailer for the upcoming musical drama in May 2023. The trailer, which introduces many of the characters we’ll come to know later this year, spends a great deal of time with Celie Harris Johnson (portrayed both by Fantasia Barrino and Phylicia Mpsai) as she embarks upon her spiritual odyssey in the American South.

Near the end of the trailer, a line of text reading “A bold new take on the beloved classic” appears beneath the title, and that could very well be true if the movie is anything like the two-minute teaser.

The Color Purple Is An Adaptation Of The Broadway Musical Inspired By Alice Walker’s 1982 Novel Of The Same Name

Jennifer Hudson and Cynthia Erivo singing one of the songs from The Color Purple

(Image credit: The Color Purple)

The Color Purple will be an adaptation of not only Walker’s 1982 novel (and the 1985 Steven Spielberg movie), it will be inspired by the Broadway musical of the same name, as reported by Deadline back in 2018. Much like previous versions, the upcoming release will center on the life of Celie Harris over the course of four decades as she struggles with her own identity after growing up the victim of numerous abusers, including her father and husband.

The New Version Of The Color Purple Will Have A “Magical Realism” Quality

Desreta Jackson in The Color Purple

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Unlike Steven Spielberg’s adaptation, the upcoming release will be able to take more chances and take a less straight-forward approach to the material. When speaking with Vanity Fair about the movie, producer Scott Sanders, who was also instrumental in getting the Broadway musical off the ground, explained how the film’s “magical realism” will give audiences a new experience:

Incorporating magical realism in this version of the story gives the audience a chance to go inside of Celie’s imagination. In the early stages of Celie’s story, she is meek and small and in many ways passive. So we don’t really understand what’s going on inside that head of hers. We know there’s a lot going on, but we don’t know necessarily what it is.

These songs, which were written by Brenda Russell, Stephen Bray, and the late Allee Willis, will give audiences the opportunity to see these inner passions and the thoughts within the main character’s head.

Black Is King Director Blitz Bazawule Helmed The Color Purple

Beyonce in Black is King.

(Image credit: Disney+)

Ghanaian rapper and filmmaker Blitz Bazawule, who is perhaps best known for directing a portion of the 2020 Disney+ original musical film and visual album, Black is King, alongside Beyoncé and the likes of Emmanuel Adjei, Ibra Ake, and Jenn Nkiru, will be in the director’s chair for The Color Purple, which should be an indication of the visual style of the upcoming release. Bazawule, who made his feature length directorial debut with 2018’s The Burial of Kojo, was hired to direct the highly-anticipated musical adaptation shortly after the release of the high-profile Beyoncé project in August 2020, according to Deadline.

Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, And Scott Sanders Are Among The Movie’s Producers

Oprah Winfrey in The Color Purple

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

In addition to featuring the directorial efforts of Bazawule, the film will have some major players behind-the-scenes, with all the big names who brought the 1985 movie and 2005 Broadway musical to life serving as producers. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg, Quincy Jones, and the aforementioned Scott Sanders had a hand in getting the production off the ground.

The article also pointed out that Winfrey, who kicked off her film career in the original movie, is producing through her Harpo Films banner and that Spielberg is doing the same through his Amblin Entertainment.

Expect to hear more about The Color Purple as we get closer to the December 20, 2023 release date. In the meantime, take a look at all the other book-to-screen adaptations that are set to come out in the next few months.

Philip Sledge
Content Writer

Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop barking at the mailman, or chatting about professional wrestling to his wife. Writing gigs with school newspapers, multiple daily newspapers, and other varied job experiences led him to this point where he actually gets to write about movies, shows, wrestling, and documentaries (which is a huge win in his eyes). If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.