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The experience of reading "Beloved" moved Oprah Winfrey, she says, in a way she had never felt before. "'Beloved' is about what slavery did to people. It's about how it drove people mad, forced people to make choices no human being should have to make, and what happens as a result of making those choices. It's about the death of self, the birth of self, and finding ways to make yourself whole."

There was a real-life model for Sethe, the novel's leading character. Toni Morrison had been inspired by the story of a woman named Margaret Garner, a Kentucky slave who escaped with her children to Cincinnati, Ohio, which is also Morrison's birthplace.

Unbeknownst to Winfrey, in December of 1996, Kate Forte, head of Harpo Films/producer, sent the script to Jonathan Demme and his partner Edward Saxon at their production company, Clinica Estetico.

Demme says, "I took some scripts home with me over Christmas vacation, and 'Beloved' was at the top of the pile. I read it and just fell in love with the script." For the director, to be given the chance to make such a powerful and unforgettable story was "a dream come true."

Jonathan Demme realized that a cinematic work must define its own vision, saying, "Even as we were all determined to honor Ms. Morrison's novel to the deepest degree possible, we also understood that the movie had to achieve a life all its own. We knew that we didn't want to fall into the reverential trap of just kind of worshipping at the altar of a book we revered and adored. Any adaptation must aspire to taking flight and creating its own identity."

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