Here’s Why Michael Jackson Was at Whoopi Goldberg’s Audition for ‘The Color Purple’

Long before she was the no-nonsense moderator on The View, Whoopi Goldberg rose to fame as a movie star. Her breakout role was in Steven Spielberg’s 1985 film, The Color Purple. At the time, Goldberg was a standup comedian and neophyte actress. Here’s how her unorthodox audition for the role went down, and why some Hollywood A-listers like Michael Jackson were there.

'The Color Purple'
‘The Color Purple’ | Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

‘The Color Purple’ is based on the novel of the same name

Alice Walker’s novel, The Color Purple, told the story of Celie Johnson, a woman who experienced abuse and heartbreak at the hands of those closest to her. Despite her experiences, the character was patient, compassionate, and resilient. Spielberg aimed to bring that story to the silver screen.

As the director behind the movie, Spielberg was tasked with casting the ideal talent to bring Celie to life. Goldberg ultimately won the part and earned rave reviews. Recently, she spoke with The Howard Stern Show about how the opportunity came about.

Whoopi Goldberg traveled from New York to LA to audition for ‘The Color Purple’

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In the interview with Stern, Goldberg revealed that Walker had told Spielberg about her.

I get a notice from my management. They said, “Do you have time on such and such day? Steven Spielberg wants to see you. We think he’s doing The Color Purple, and so, we suggest that you take this meeting.” I was like, “Oh, OK. Yes.”

Whoopi Goldberg on The Howard Stern Show

Goldberg was in New York at the time, and Spielberg could not leave LA. So, she hightailed it out to the West Coast to perform in his theater. She said this about the experience:

I went to Steven’s studio, and then I peeked out, you know, from behind the curtain, and there are all kinds of people — Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson and just all these people who were watching me perform, and I just felt like, “I hope I’m good.” Because all those people that were there, including Steven, were people who I had always dreamed about.

Whoopi Goldberg on The Howard Stern Show

Spielberg was impressed enough to offer Goldberg the starring role. Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey also signed on to the film.

Goldberg admires Spielberg’s cinematic expertise

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According to Box Office Mojo, The Color Purple grossed nearly $100 million, and fans praised the performances and story. When reflecting on what it was like to work with Spielberg on the movie, Goldberg said this:

The great thing for me about Steven Spielberg was his knowledge of film. And he would say, “Did you ever see Koyaanisqatsi?” And I said, “Yeah, I saw that.” He said, “Well, remember when the sun is coming up, and all the steam is on the trees and stuff? That’s the feeling I want in this.” And I was like, “OK. I understand.” So that’s how he communicated with me, and for me, it was great because I’m a visualist.

I said, “You know, I don’t know anything about this. I don’t want to be bad.” He said, “Have you ever been bad?” I said, “I’ve been terrible.” He said, “Well, this is not going to be different. There will be times when you will be bad, but that’s what I’m for.”

Whoopi Goldberg on The Howard Stern Show