Photo: George Burns/Harpo Studios
Rae Dawn, the daughter of actor Tommy Chong, was one of the film's only experienced actors. Prior to The Color Purple, Rae Dawn acted in films like Quest for Fire, but she still had to audition like the others. "I auditioned quite a bit; I auditioned about 25,000 times," she says with a smile. "I kind of went straight to Spielberg."
Even though her name was on the movie poster—unlike Oprah—Rae Dawn says she never felt like a star. "Now that I'm a lesser big star, I really don't remember being a big star," she says.
Akosua Busia may not have been a recognizable actress when she was cast as Nettie, but she's well known in Ghana, her native country. There, Akosua is a real Ghanaian princess!
At first, Reuben considered Akosua for a role in another film, but he felt she was too young. "He wouldn't let me read, and I was begging," Akosua says.
Then, a few days later, Reuben called and asked Akosua to read Alice Walker's book. "I read it all night," she says. Akosua says she knew someone named Whoopi had the part of Celie, so she auditioned for another role and got it!