In landing Oscar winner Sidney Poitier for the lead in her ABC telefilm “David & Lisa,” Oprah Winfrey said she has reached “one of those full-circle moments.”
“He is it,” Winfrey told Daily Variety Monday. “Sidney Poitier is the whole reason why I wanted to be an actress — ever. For me to now be in a position where I can produce a film and have him be a part of it … it’s just one of the wonders of life for me.”
Poitier will star in an “update” of the 1962 film “David & Lisa,” which revolved around a love story between two troubled teens who are aided by the psychiatrist who runs the group home where they live. Lukas Haas (“Witness,” “Mars Attacks!”) will take on the role of David, and Brittany Murphy (“Clueless,” “Freeway”) has been cast as Lisa. Poitier is repped by CAA.
The telefilm will air next season under the “Oprah Winfrey Presents” banner on ABC, probably during the November or February sweeps. Pic, the third since the Winfrey Presents banner bowed on ABC in 1996, will be exec produced by Winfrey and Kate Forte for Winfrey’s Harpo Films. Production begins June 22 in the Los Angeles area.
Paul Heller, who produced the original indie feature, will co-exec produce. Lloyd Kramer, who directed the first Winfrey Presents vidpic “Before Women Had Wings,” will direct.
Heller also will co-write the script along with Theodore Isaac Rubin, the doctor who wrote the book that spawned the 1962 film. Original pic, directed by Frank Perry, starred Howard da Silva as the psychiatrist and Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin in the title roles.
Oprah’s role model
In confirming her casting coup, Winfrey enthused about Poitier’s strengths as an actor and gave some insight into her emo-tional ties to the pioneering black thesp, the first — and to date the only — black actor to win the Academy Award for best actor. Poitier nabbed his Oscar for his role in 1963’s “Lillies of the Field” as a handyman who helps build a chapel for a group of German nuns.
“I was 10 years old, sitting on a linoleum floor, watching a black and white television, watching Sidney Poitier getting out of a limousine” to go into the 1964 Academy Awards ceremonies, Winfrey recalled. “When he went up there and got that award, that was when I thought, ‘OK, it could happen to me, a young colored girl.’
“This is truly a full-circle moment for me, having Sidney be part of this film,” she said. “It was a dream, a fantasy, and I just threw it out there. I asked God to do with it what he would, and I just could not believe (Poitier) said yes. It’s just divine.”