Before production, Steven Spielberg felt very insecure about being director of the film. In fact, his initial response to Quincy Jones' request was no. Spielberg felt that his knowledge of the deep South was inadequate and that the film should've been directed by someone of color, who could've at least related to the struggles faced by many blacks living in the old south. Jones then argued, "No, I want you to do it. And besides, did you have to be an alien to direct E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)?" Spielberg appreciated his friend's logic and decided to take the role as director of the film.
Caused one of the most controversial moments in the history of the Academy Awards when it received eleven nominations but did not include Steven Spielberg as Best Director. In the end, it won none of them.
Steven Spielberg's baby was born during the filming of this movie, and in the scene where young Celie gives birth to the baby, the sound of the baby crying is the actual sound of the Spielberg's baby crying.
At the dinner scene, Oprah Winfrey ad-libbed all her lines when she was talking to Whoopi Goldberg. After the scene, Goldberg walked over to Winfrey, gave her a hug, and told her that she now became an actress.
Sofia's speech at the dinner table was an ad lib prompted by Steven Spielberg, in the middle of filming the scene. He asked Winfrey to express to Celie how she felt that day when she saw Celie in the store, as Sofia was shopping for Miss Millie.
Whoopi Goldberg won the part of Celie in her audition for Steven Spielberg, by doing a comedy act she had developed about a stoned E.T. getting arrested in Oakland for possession. The audition was attended by many of Spielberg's famous friends, including Producer Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson.
Steven Spielberg admits that his greatest mistake in directing this film was his lack of courage portraying the lesbian relationship between Celie and Shug. At the time of filming, Spielberg feared that overt sexuality between the two characters would alienate audiences, a decision he now regrets.
Alice Walker, author of the source novel, attended the rushes at the end of filming each day, yet she was horrified with the final cut of the film, especially what she referred to as the "Oklahoma"-type opening scene. However, at the premiere, when she watched the movie with an enthusiastic audience, she changed her mind. She now says she likes the film very much, but thinks of it as being very different from her book.
Author Alice Walker was uneasy about Steven Spielberg's appointment to direct the film. However, she was confident in a then-unknown Whoopi Goldberg, after seeing her San Francisco stand-up routine in which she portrayed many different characters.
Although Quincy Jones is the sole music credit during the opening titles, a dispute arose regarding much of the music in the film. As a result, when the score was nominated for Best Original Score at the Oscars, twelve musicians (including Jones) were listed as contributors to the score.
The stage musical adaption of the movie opened at the Broadway Theater in New York on December 1, 2005, ran for 910 performances and was nominated for the 2006 Tony Awards for the Best Musical, Book and Score.
Some critics, especially those in the black community, slammed this as "male bashing and racist". Still others slammed Spielberg, a white male director, as being out of touch with the themes of racism and sexism in the novel and for soft-pedalling the lesbian relationship between Celie and Shug in the novel.
Steven Spielberg and producers Jon Peters and Peter Guber have both have ties to director John Landis. Peters and Guber had executive produced An American Werewolf in London (1981) for Landis when they were running PolyGram Pictures. Spielberg and Landis have worked together three times. Spielberg had given Landis a cameo in 1941 (1979). In return, Landis would give Spielberg a cameo in The Blues Brothers (1980). Both Landis and Spielberg would co-direct and co-produce Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).