Friday, March 02, 2007

Tulia, the Motion Picture: Halle Berry will star as NAACP counsel

The infamous Tulia drug stings and the years-long effort to secure the release and pardon of dozens of wrongfully convicted defendants will soon be memorialized on the silver screen. Lionsgate will produce the movie, with actress Halle Berry playing the role of a young attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (in real life Vanita Gupta). Shooting will begin in May.

Not only were the defendants ultimately released from prison and pardoned, but fallout from the event ultimately led to the abolition of dozens of similar drug task forces statewide. See prior Grits coverage of Tulia and Texas drug task forces.

My pal Nate Blakeslee, who wrote an acclaimed book on the Tulia episode, sold the movie rights to this production company, if I'm not mistaken, so I hope he cashes in when the movie comes out. Nate is also the reporter who recently broke the Texas Youth Commission sex scandal story that forced the resignation last week of that agency's executive director.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

My suggestions for Tom Coleman: Sean Penn, if they can get him, or if not, Robert Knepper.

Anonymous said...

Good for Tulia, good for Nate, good for us. And good for Halle Berry, too, I guess, but...Vanita Gupta is a South Asian (Pakistani) immigrant from London. I guess that was too much for Hollywood to process. Our loss!

Anonymous said...

As one of the attorneys whose clients sought and received pleas, who watched the Sting unravel, and who has continued to help a few of the Sting's victims, I find I agree with Dan. Ms. Berry could easily represent one of the Sting's victims or even one of their mothers, but she is too old and miscast as Ms. Gupta. As a victim or mother of one of the victims, Halle could bring the real significance of the Sting home. All due respect to Ms. Gupta, Mr. Blackburn, Mr. McDonald, and the other attorneys, but she and they never once spent a moment in the penitentiary or in fear of losing their children as they waded through the court system on their way to the pen wandering what would become of their families. To make any movie about the attorneys, rather than the victims, is an unfortunate miscarriage of justice as well.

Anonymous said...

Wondering, not wandering. Imagine Forest Whitaker as Joe Moore. Too often Hollywood makes the attorney the center of the plot. The Tulia Drug Sting need not go down such a pathway. How about John Goodman as Gary Gardner? What about John Heard (Milagro Beanfield War and Pelican Brief) as Alan Bean? What a cast there could be, but what story will it tell: about the victims, the attorneys, the politics? Now I'm wandering.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Well, Jeff Blackburn is ugly as homemade sin, so they weren't going to make his character the lead. ;) As for Vanita, she might come up to Halle Berry's armpit in height. However, though I love Vanita, I'd rather watch Halle Berry on screen for an hour and a half.

That said, I agree I hope the scriptwriters place a significant emphasis on the on-the-ground impacts of the sting on defendants and their families. Forrest Whittaker, I think, should play Joe Moore, the alleged hog farmer "kingpin" (Whitaker is a native Texan, you know, from Longview). And let's see if Chris Brown would play Kreemie White.

Let me also suggest Oprah Winfrey playing Thelma Johnson and Rick Moranis in his first dramatic role as Rev. Alan Bean.

Of course, Sen. John Cornyn can play himself giving Tom Coleman the "Law Enforcement Officer of the Year" award.

But I gotta say, I disagree that they shouldn't emphasize the lawyers. There was some high courtroom drama along the way, and for that matter quite a bit of unlikely, dramatic, action at the Legislature, too. I wouldn't leave that part out of a movie if I were making it.

Movies get all the details wrong inevitably, anyway. No use complaining about it. Suffice it to say, for anybody to be making a movie about it at all tells you it was quite a ride. And it was.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I see we were both composing our cast suggestions at the same time and both came up with Forrest Whitaker as Joe Moore. Good call on John Goodman as Gary Gardner, too. Not many folks could pull that role off. (He'd have to put on weight for the part, though, like Deniro in Raging Bull.)

All of a sudden, though, this is getting to be an expense movie!

Anonymous said...

Was reading your comments on the Tulia: the movie, but just wanted to let you know that Tulia is also available as an unabridged audiobook. The audiobook published as a direct-to-download in September 2006 and will be available on CD in June 2007.
Read by James Boles, a native son of Texas. Was going to put a Google ad on your site, but wasn't sure how. You can sample the introduction at

Joan Blair said...

So, Hallie IS going to play Vanita as Indian. And, Billy Bob Thornton is DEFINITELY going to play Tom. I've worked with Billy Bob on "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "Bad Santa." He's a wonderful guy and really cares about race relations. I am hoping to get on the film in a small role.

Anonymous said...

Vanita Gupta's origins are not Pakistani. She's of Indian/Hindu heritage

Anonymous said...

that is right
vanita gupta is an indian of hindu religion not muslim/pakistan origin