The film The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, directed by George C. Wolfe and starring Oprah Winfrey, premieres on HBO April 22. The project is based on the 2010 book by Rebecca Skloot.
The story is about an African-American woman dying of cervical cancer in 1951. Surgeons at Johns Hopkins harvested cells from her tumor that would prove to be immortal and would change the face of medicine forever. Yet any recognition of her involuntary donation to science would long remain unknown.
The film is told through the eyes of her daughter, Deborah, played by Winfrey.
Henrietta Lacks is a Harpo Films, Your Face Goes Here Entertainment and Cine Mosaic production.
Executive producers are Alan Ball, Peter Macdissi, Oprah Winfrey, Carla Gardini and Lydia Dean Pilcher.
Director Wolfe describes the book as “massive emotionally, intellectually; it’s a science book and it’s an intimate book about families and race in America and economics and power. All these things are juggled in fascinating and interesting ways.”
Winfrey singles out Skloot for sticking with a tough, nuanced story.
“Had she not had the conviction to stay with the story, we still wouldn’t know about Henrietta; the world would not know about her story,” said Winfrey. “Rebecca was able to put it within a context that the world could receive and understand, and now, we’ve taken it to the next level.”