Veteran TV producer Larry A. Thompson has optioned the rights to Kitty Kelley's unauthorized tome, Oprah: A Biography, a book whose sordid claims sparked Oprah's fury this spring. Thompson (who's dramatized the lives of Sonny and Cher, among other famous names) says he's planning to audition both known and unknown actresses to headline a TV movie or miniseries scheduled for September 2011, just as Oprah ends her 25-year talk show run. What actress could best tackle the role of Oprah's lifetime — and survive the prospect of being blacklisted by one of the media world's most powerful personalities?
The role presents problems for name actresses: Among known actresses, likely frontrunners include Viola Davis, Jennifer Hudson, and possibly Debra Wilson (who earned acclaim for satirizing Oprah on Mad TV), says Jaret Wiesselman in The New York Post. But though the "material would be well served" by any of the three ladies, Davis is particularly vulnerable to Oprah backlash, Hudson would have to regain hard-lost weight, and Wilson is probably too frivolous. I recommend producers "go unknown."
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The book's version of Oprah calls for someone gritty: Considering that Kelley's biography alleges that the talk show host is "a liar, closet lesbian and a former prostitute," what about Mo'Nique? asks X17online. And while we're at it, how about Whitney Houston as her sidekick Gayle King?
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No known star would want to risk offending Oprah: Entertainment Weekly's Jennifer Armstrong also mentions Viola Davis and Jennifer Hudson as examples of "an actress with enough spirit, spark, and gravitas to take on the Almighty Oprah." But it's doubtful any known actress would take on such a role: "I can’t think of anyone who’d want to incur her [Oprah's] wrath by daring to do so."
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Actually, offending Oprah will soon be less risky: Taking on the role might not necessarily be detrimental, says Brendan Lemon in Lemonwade. "Let's remember: O’s syndicated TV show ends next year, before the movie would be released." Yes, she'll have her own network by then and some remaining clout, "but she’s no longer as monolithic as she used to be. (Judge Judy often bests her in the ratings.)"
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