Ava DuVernay, the independent film director known for 2011’s I Will Follow and 2012’s Middle of Nowhere, has another big name added to the cast of her Martin Luther King Jr. feature drama, Selma.
According to The Wrap, Oprah Winfrey will portray freedom fighter Annie Lee Cooper. Cooper, a Selma, Ala., native, who died in November 2010 at 100 years old, stood in line for hours in an attempt to register to vote at the Dallas County Courthouse during the civil rights movement.
Cooper, who was 56 years old at the time of the incident, was ordered to go home by Sheriff James G. Clark. Cooper ignored his order and claimed Clark poked her in the back of the neck with a billy club. Cooper then punched him in the jaw and knocked him to the ground.
After the altercation, Cooper was charged with assault and attempted murder, but was released after 11 hours because of the threat that Clark would return and beat her.
In a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight, Winfrey spoke of the praises she received from Maya Angelou about the role.
“She was so proud that I was doing this movie,” Winfrey, 60, told Entertainment Tonight. “And she said, ‘Take it baby. Take it all the way. Take it all the way.’”
“She was a part of the movement,” Winfrey added, “worked with Martin Luther King [and] understood what we were trying to do with this film.”
Yesha Callahan is editor of The Grapevine and a staff writer at The Root. Follow her on Twitter.