‘Oh God, a Movie, Oh My God’: Chaka Khan Reveals Why She Turned Down the Role of Celie In ‘The Color Purple’ 

Legendary singer Chaka Khan recently revealed during an episode of “The Jennifer Hudson Show” that she turned down the starring role of Celie in the 1985 “The Color Purple” film release.

Throughout her career, which began in the early 1970s, Khan has secured a few acting credits in several sitcoms or hit drama series, including “Malcolm and Eddie, ” in which she played a minor character named Rosalyn. In three television series, “Living Single,” “Method & Red” and “Empire,” Khan portrayed herself. 

Chaka Khan reveals she turned down the starring role in “The Color Purple.” Photo:@jenniferhudsonshow/YouTube

In the Nov. 5 interview, when Jennifer Hudson asked Khan what past project she had turned down, the 69-year-old shared that she passed on the chance to be a part of “The Color Purple.” 

She said, “Funny you should ask that. Well, you know, I turned down ‘The Color Purple.'” The “Through the Wire” vocalist said that when Steven Spielberg first offered her the role, she could have been 22 years old at the time. 

Khan’s timeline might have been off some because when the film was released in theaters in 1985, she reportedly would have been 32. 

“He came to me,” she said. “He said he wanted me to do this movie, ‘The Color Purple.’ I was about maybe 22 tops. He came to me and asked me to go on and do this movie and I said ‘what movie?’ He said this movie called ‘The Color Purple.’ It is a movie that is shot down South.”

Khan said after the offer, she tried to “run” from that opportunity out of fear. She said, “So I was trying to run from that because I was afraid. I was like ‘Oh God, a movie, oh my God.’ “

Khan wrapped up that sentence by saying she felt immense pressure from having to rehearse and study lines. When asked what character she was supposed to play, Khan responded, “They wanted me to be Celie.” 

Despite Khan’s recent claims that she was supposed to portray the role of Celie, which later went to Whoopi Goldberg, The Guardian reported in 2008 that the “I’m Every Woman” songstress was originally offered the role of Shug Avery, a beloved and flamboyant blues singer. Khan reportedly turned down the part because she didn’t consider herself “a film star or a film actor.” 

Khan isn’t the only star to turn down a role in “The Color Purple.” The film’s lead, Whoopi Goldberg, shared in 2020 that she initially passed on Celie because she felt the part was too big for her debut acting project. 

She said, “Steven Spielberg said to me, ‘I really want you to play the role of Celie.’ And I said, ‘Erm, no.’ He said, ‘I’m sorry what?’ And I replied, ‘Well no, I think I need a smaller role. I’ve never made a movie before and I don’t want to be terrible.'”

“The View” host added that she eventually took the part because of Spielberg’s willingness to help her and his love for films. 

Goldberg said, “He looked at me and said, ‘I’m going to make a deal with you. Trust me that I know this part is right for you and if I think you’re being terrible, I will help.’ I agreed and he directed me by talking to me about movies.”

Since the 1985 release of “The Color Purple,” the movie has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including a Best Actress nomination for Goldberg. It made $142 million worldwide, and spawned several remakes, with the most recent being a musical adaptation set to be released in December 2023. 

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