'The Color Purple' Is 30 Years Old Today!

Groundbreaking film with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey was released in 1985.

ByABC News
December 18, 2015, 5:54 AM

— -- Thirty years ago, the movie "The Color Purple" brought to the big screen a world audiences had scarcely seen before -- that of poor African-American women facing domestic abuse, incest and racism in the rural South in the early 1900s.

Based on Alice Walker's 1982 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, the movie, like the book, was not without controversy. Despite that, it went on to success at the box office, grossing more than $142 million worldwide, earning 11 Academy Award nominations, and making stars Oprah Winfrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover household names.

The film has since become a cultural touchstone, particularly for black women, and helped inspire the 2005 Broadway musical, which earned 11 Tony Awards, and its current revival starring Jennifer Hudson.

In honor of the film's 30th anniversary, we've made a list of 30 things you may not know about "The Color Purple."

1. Though it was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including best picture, best director for Steven Spielberg and acting nods for Goldberg, Winfrey and Margaret Avery, it it didn't take home a single one -- tying 1977's "The Turning Point" for the most Oscar nominations without a single win.

2. Spielberg called "The Color Purple" his first "grown-up" film. His eighth movie, it was a departure from the summer blockbusters, like "E.T." and "Jaws," that made him famous.

3. The film earned Spielberg his first Directors Guild Award.

4. Winfrey, then a relatively unknown local Chicago talk host, was obsessed with Walker's novel and determined to play a role in the film when she heard a movie was in the works. After auditioning for the role of Sofia and waiting months for a response, she retreated to a "fat farm" in Wisconsin. "I wanted to let it go," she told the audience at the Santa Barbara film festival in 2014. While there, she got a call from Spielberg who told her if she lost one pound, she could lose the role. "Honey, I packed my bags in seven minutes, stopped at the Dairy Queen and went to audition," she said, adding that she "learned the principle of surrender" from that experience.

5. Goldberg, on the other hand, told Winfrey during a "Color Purple" reunion on her national talk show in 2010 that she didn't want the role of Celie at first. "I never made a movie before," said the comedian, who was known then for her one-woman show. "I didn't know how this thing worked, and if I messed it up, I didn't want to get in trouble." Goldberg originally read for the role of Sofia in front of Spielberg, executive producer Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, and several others who happened to be at Amblin that day. But instead of reading lines from the script, she performed a bit from her comedy act in which a stoned E.T. gets arrested for possession of an illegal substance. Goldberg won over Spielberg, who then asked her to play Celie instead.

6. Roger Ebert said Goldberg gave "one of the most amazing debut performances in movie history."

7. Glover, who played Mr.-, had only been in three movies before "The Color Purple." Confessing that some of the scenes were tough for him to watch, he told Winfrey during the reunion show that his 92-year-old grandmother was so angry after she saw it that she said, "That boy know he was raised better than that. I'm gonna get a switch."

8. Glover's grandmother wasn't the only one angry over the black male characters' portrayal in the film. Spike Lee said the film was "done with hate," and that the Mr.— character was a "one-note animal."

9. The Los Angeles premiere drew protesters from The Coalition Against Black Exploitation for its depiction of black men abusing black women.

10. Other prominent black writers, journalists and academics dismissed the film as dangerous, anti-black and racist.

11. Adolph Caesar, who played the father of Mr. —, passed away a year after the movie's release.