EXCLUSIVE: Tate Taylor has set Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer to star with Chadwick Boseman in Get On Up, the James Brown biopic that Imagine’s Brian Grazer is producing with Jagged Films’ Mick Jagger. Davis will play Susie Brown, who was only 16 when she gave birth to the future R&B legend, and abandoned him to live with relatives. Spencer will play the child’s Aunt Honey, a formative figure in his upbringing. This is a re-team with Taylor from The Help, for which Davis was nominated for Best Actress Oscar and Spencer winning for Best Supporting Actress. Universal will start production November in Mississippi. The script is by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Steven Baigelman, and Victoria Pearman and Erica Huggins are also producing. Davis is repped by CAA and Principal Entertainment, Spencer by WME.
EXCLUSIVE: Tate Taylor, who launched his writing and directing career by getting the option on The Help before author Kathryn Stockett was done writing it, has gotten himself on the ground floor of another sure-fire bestseller. Taylor has been granted an option by Stephen King to adapt and direct Joyland, the King novel that will be published in June. Taylor will adapt to direct, and John Norris will produce through his Wyolah Films banner. Taylor will also produce.
Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973, Joyland tells the story of a college student who moonlights as a carnival worker. There, he confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will forever change his life. It’s got all the makings of a King potboiler, with crime, mystery, ghosts and a creepy carnival setting. The book is being published through Hard Case Crime, the line of pulp-styled crime paperbacks published by Titan Books.
EXCLUSIVE: CAA, on a signing tear of late, has just inked Viola Davis. The actress recently took meetings with all the majors. This follows recent signings of Keira Knightley, Frost/Nixon writer/playwright Peter Morgan, Neil Patrick Harris and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Oscar-nominated for The Help and Doubt, Davis won Tony Awards for the revival of August Wilson’s Fences with Denzel Washington, and for King Hedley II. She had been repped by APA.
Davis will next be seen in the Denis Villenueve-directed Prisoners for Warner Brothers and the Gavin Hood-directed Ender’s Game, which Summit Entertainment releases in November.
She continues to be managed by Estelle Lasher at Principal Entertainment and her lawyer is Michael Adler of Lichter, Grossman, Nichols, Adler & Feldman.
EXCLUSIVE: Octavia Spencer, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Help, will join the cast of Baggage Claim, the David E. Talbert-directed comedy for Fox Searchlight. Paula Patton stars as a flight attendant who is the oldest unmarried gal in her family and sets her sights on finding a groom before her sister gets hitched in 30 days. Derek Luke will also star.
Since her Oscar turn, Spencer has starred in Diablo Cody’s untitled directing debut, and she just wrapped Snowpiercer with Chris Evans, and she just completed Fruitvale, which was produced by Forest Whitaker.
She’s repped by WME.
In the end it was mostly predictable. The only stunning surprise of the 84th Annual Academy Awards was that somehow The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo came out of nowhere to win the Best Film Editing award, something no pundit I know of saw coming. But it served to stop the early momentum of Hugo, which at one point was leading front-runner The Artist 5 awards to 1. Was Harvey Weinstein nervous that there could be an upset brewing over his heavily favored film? No. When I caught up with him at the Governors Ball, he said he was just enjoying the show and not keeping tabs. Eventually Artist caught up and won all the big ones — the Oscars everyone was predicting including Best Picture, Best Director for Michel Hazanavicius and Best Actor for Jean Dujardin in addition to music and costumes. I am told The Weinstein Company plans to expand the little-film-that-could to 2000 screens by next weekend in what should be a real test of Oscar’s drawing power at the boxoffice. So far after a little over three months the film has just grossed over $30 million domestically. Weinstein will hope to double that with an Oscar bounce.
Among those congratulating Weinstein was Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Fremaux, who proudly championed the film at last May’s fest, even switching it from out of competition to a competition slot, where it won the first Best …
Take this forecast with a grain a salt, built as it is on buzz, precursors, Oscar history, nominee pedigrees, educated guesses, instinctive hunches and conversations with voters. Enter your office pool with confidence but don’t blame me if you lose to some grandmother who hasn’t been to a movie since Gone With The Wind. As the race has entered its final phase I have tweaked this forecast from an earlier article in Issue 7 of AwardsLine (see all of our AwardsLine editions here). This is where I have landed for the 84th Annual Academy Awards. Predicting Oscars is not an exact science, and this year some of the categories are kinda tricky, but if you count on The Artist to make the most noise on Oscar night you’re likely to turn up in the winners’ circle. That is unless the common wisdom of collective punditry is completely wrong this year. Now wouldn’t THAT make for an interesting show?
EXCLUSIVE: CAA has signed The Help writer-director Tate Taylor. He has been everywhere this awards season with the film, which is up for four Oscars this Sunday including Best Picture. This past weekend he accepted the WGA’s Paul Selvin Award for his adapted screenplay of the civil rights-era drama. He was with WME.
Once a year it seems a performance comes across as more than the sum of good writing, strong direction and lucky timing. The performance appears to be rooted in the reality of the actor’s history; in essence they have lived much of what they are being asked to portray. Such is Octavia Spencer‘s portrait of Minny Jackson in The Help. She plays a maid who suffers through emotional and physical beatings like a native but not a naive veteran of the 1960s civil rights movement — Spencer grew up in Montgomery, Ala., and graduated with a BS in Liberal Arts from Auburn. Perhaps it’s the combination of her education, Southern comfort and humor that have helped Spencer emerge as a Supporting Actress frontrunner for the Oscars even with such equally impressive co-stars as Jessica Chastain, Bryce Dallas Howard, Allison Janney and Oscar-winner Sissy Spacek. She spoke with AwardsLine contributor Craig Modderno about her experience with The Help, which is up for four Oscars including Best Picture.
AWARDSLINE: Many actors say they’re perfect for the role especially when they’re auditioning. Was your part in The Help a natural fit for you?
SPENCER: I don’t know. Basically it was physically, because I suspect Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, who I knew while she was writing the book, might have modeled the character after me. But there are a lot of other short and round black women in the South who also seem to not hesitate in speaking their minds. Even though I was friends with the author and other influential members of the production team, I still had to audition for the role. When I did, in the back of my mind, I thought I was hearing someone ask if Jennifer Hudson was available yet!
Has anyone submitted Jessica Chastain to the Guinness Book of World Records? She must have set a record this year for an actor making her feature film debut (The Tree Of Life) and following it up with the most films ever — seven! — to come out in the following six months (Chastain actually shot 11 movies in the last four years). One of two nominees for Best Supporting Actress in The Help (the other is Octavia Spencer), Chastain spoke on the phone from Morocco with AwardsLine contributor Ari Karpel about the whirlwind she’s been on, working with Terrence Malick, and her politely expressed disdain for the lack of roles that aren’t “the wife.”
AWARDSLINE: Considering how prolific you are, I imagine you’re not in Marrakech on vacation.
CHASTAIN: You know what? It is my vacation! I was in Toronto, shooting a movie called Mama, produced by Guillermo del Toro. It was a very long shoot and we were working through weekends, and I finished on Thursday and went straight to the airport to come to Marrakech. This is the first time this year I’m not going somewhere to film something or promote something. I’m with my best friend, Jess, and I’m sitting on the jury of the Marrakech [International] Film Festival, which is so exciting. I don’t really do beach vacations so this is kind of a typical vacation for me — I get to go see movies and talk about them.
The Help accumulated more accolades tonight with the NAACP Image Awards naming it Best Motion Picture, and Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer were chosen Best Actress and Supporting Actress. Ceremonies at the Shrine Auditorium were hosted by Sanaa Latham and Anthony Mackie. In addition, the Founding Members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association received the NAACP President’s Award. A list of winners in motion picture and TV categories follows:
Outstanding Motion Picture
“The Help” (DreamWorks Pictures/
Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture
Laz Alonso – “Jumping the Broom”
Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture
Viola Davis – “The Help” (DreamWorks Pictures/
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Mike Epps – “Jumping the Broom” (TriStar Pictures)
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Octavia Spencer – “The Help” (DreamWorks Pictures/
Outstanding Independent Motion Picture
“Pariah” (Focus Features)
Outstanding Foreign Motion Picture
“In the Land of Blood and Honey” (FilmDistrict)
Viola Davis, a two-time Tony winner, landed her first major leading film role in The Help and has already won the Critics’ Choice Movie Award and the SAG Award for best actress as well as Oscar and BAFTA nominations in a fiercely competitive year. It’s a season in which he finds herself again vying in the same category with her Doubt co-star Meryl Streep among others (the pair were also Oscar-nominated for that film at the 2009 Academy Awards). But no matter what happens, Davis is proud of her film, which is based on the best–selling book that she originally tried to option herself before learning that director Tate Taylor was already one step ahead of her. Fortunately, things worked out in the end for Davis, Taylor and especially moviegoers. She spoke with Deadline Awards Columnist Pete Hammond about playing maids, awards season and the keepers of history.
Revolutionizing the craft in the wake of her role models
Cicely Tyson [her Help co-star] was an inspiration because before that time the only images of African Americans on screen were in sitcoms. I can name 15 sitcoms and no dramas that were on TV: What’s Happening?, Good Times, That’s My Momma, Baby I’m Back and Sanford and Son. … Then Miss Jane Pittman’s autobiography came along and I saw something different. I saw a craft and I saw magic, and transformation. For me, that’s what I wanted to do. I saw the difference between the gimmick, and the actor who was creating a human being; and I still always seek that in the work. And especially with people who look like me. You know, I found with a lot of the images that were playing out there were the Jimmy J.J. Walker, the Re-run, the George Jefferson, the George Sanford, they were always caricatures, larger-than-life entertainers. And when I set about becoming an actress I didn’t know the lonely path of the black artist. That the black artist is usually reduced, as Isabelle Sanford was, as was the role John Amos played. If you didn’t kind of reduce what you do and take a role opposite a Jimmy J.J. Walker or a Re-run, then you probably wouldn’t work. I often wondered what those actors felt like — being trapped in those sitcoms trying to make that material work for them. But I didn’t want to do that; I wanted to be an actor, not an entertainer, and Cicely Tyson was it for me.
With four Oscar nominations — three for actors and one for Best Picture — as well as a big win at the SAG Awards for best ensemble, actress and supporting actress, The Help has emerged as an Oscar frontrunner. The Disney-distributed DreamWorks film took late-summer box office by storm, holding first place for three weeks and ultimately grossing over $167 million Stateside. With its mix of comedy and 1960s civil rights drama, Hollywood has likened The Help to the 1989 Best Picture Oscar© winner Driving Miss Daisy, which also charmed the masses ($106.6 million domestic). As heartwarming as The Help is, so was its journey to the screen. Author Kathryn Stockett wanted none other than her childhood best friend from Mississippi, Tate Taylor, an untested helmer in Hollywood, to direct. Enabling their dream was another mutual friend from the Magnolia state and Taylor’s producer, Brunson Green, who worked with Chris Columbus to push the project forward in Hollywood.
AWARDSLINE: Tell us the back-story of how The Help made its way from manuscript to the big screen.
GREEN: Kathryn Stockett wrote the manuscript and Tate Taylor was one of the first people she allowed to read it. After reading it, Tate immediately called me and said …
Steven Spielberg has been a prominent player in the feature film scene for close to 40 years, and scored the first of his 12 Oscar nominations (with two wins) 33 years ago. Yet in many ways the filmmaker maintains a perpetual boyish image in the public imagination. Maybe it’s his affinity for stories featuring children — like his Oscar contender War Horse – or his unquenchable excitement about movie-making. Whatever the reason, the director-writer-producer-mogul always seems to be in the center of the current conversations about film — he and producer/filmmaker Peter Jackson unleashed the 3D motion capture animated family film The Adventures Of Tintin just days before War Horse was released, made while both iconic directors were busy making huge live-action films of their own. While Spielberg surprisingly did not get nominated for Best Director on War Horse, he’s up for Best Picture as that film’s producer. That is one of two Best Picture nominations for DreamWorks, the other being The Help. Those two films are up for 10 Oscars between them. And Spielberg shows no signs of slowing down. He’s prepping a big science fiction film in Robopocalypse, and he is close to committing to Gods And Kings, a Warner Bros film (DreamWorks would become partner on the film) that would be the most epic Old Testament film about Moses since The Ten Commandments. On a break from shooting his upcoming biopic on Abraham Lincoln, Spielberg took time to reflect on his lessons learned, the advice he’s ignored and the medium he loves.
AWARDSLINE: After Jaws went 100 days over schedule, George Lucas was quoted as saying, ‘Stay away from working on the water and working with kids, old people and live animals.’ Was shooting War Horse with real horses deja vu all over again for you?
SPIELBERG: No, because the horses work. I mean seriously, they work. The nice thing about a living creature is that they do have a mind of their own. And that could be either a worst enemy or it could be your greatest ally as in this case, when all of us started trusting each other, meaning the actors and the horse. The horse actually made material contributions to the experience and added things that we never trained the horse to contribute and that was what was so amazing for me. I don’t want to compare that to Jaws because Jaws was just an aquatic nightmare for me; I mean, all of those stories were true. In this case the horses were in a sense one of the greatest surprises I ever had in making movies.
AWARDSLINE: What kinds of material contributions did the horses make?
SPIELBERG: They brought to many of the scenes a horse sense. If the scene was tense and electrifying, they were on edge and they were reactive and you could see their eyes flaring, you could see their nostrils opening and taking in more air, they were very responsive to the situations that we placed them in. … In many many cases the horse just loved [acting with] Geordie (Toby Kebbell), loved Albert (Jeremy Irvine), and he was much more reactive and responsive and in affectionate way to Albert than anyone else who came near him and you can’t ask for that, you can’t train for that.
AWARDSLINE: What was the appeal of building a movie around World War I for you? Obviously you’ve shot your share of war films.
SPIELBERG: World War I was a part in parcel of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book he wrote in 1982 and it was certainly a very important part of the stage play, [but] what attracted me to the project was really this very soulful narrative about a family of farmers whose very existence depends on the land. And the father buys the wrong horse, yet the horse is able to overcome its own breeding to be able to help the farm through, and the heart the horse displays in that gets transferred over to France in no man’s land. This is really about connections, the connections of courage and hope but mainly about the connections between people and animals and how much this horse brings into everybody’s life. It’s only about 12 minutes of combat in the actual movie.
AWARDSLINE: Saving Private Ryan was a violent, jarring, concussive war film. Here, because you’re making a family film, what did you do differently to make it accessible to families?
SPIELBERG: What I certainly was not going for was human dismemberment and the actual effects of shelling and combat, I’ve done that, and didn’t need to do it again. What I really wanted to do was find a way to allow the audience to fill in the blanks that I wasn’t literally putting in their faces. So, for instance, when the cavalry charges you don’t see a single British cavalryman being shot off the horse nor do you see a single horse being shot back into the ground. You simply see horses with riders and then you see the same horses without riders, and I thought that was sufficient to convey the impression that the technology then suddenly rendered horses useless in war time.
LOS ANGELES – Screenwriter-director Tate Taylor has been named recipient of the Writers Guild of America, West’s 2012 Paul Selvin Award for his adapted screenplay for the civil rights-era drama The Help. The Guild’s Selvin Award recognizes written work which embodies the spirit of constitutional rights and civil liberties. Filmmaker Taylor will be honored at the 2012 Writers Guild Awards West Coast ceremony on Sunday, February 19, at the Hollywood Palladium.
The Help’s Viola Davis certainly got a leg up in her fierce Best Actress race against The Weinstein Company’s duo Meryl Streep and Michelle Williams, and Help’s Octavia Spencer continued on her supporting actress roll that started in earnest with the Critics Choice and Golden Globe awards. But the Outstanding Cast award that also went to The Help let that Dreamworks film rack up one of the biggest single film hauls in the Screen Actors Guild Awards’ 18-year history. Only two other films, American Beauty in 1999 and Chicago in 2002, match Help’s three wins out of five film categories. Interestingly, both went on to win the Oscar for Best Picture. A good omen? In this case it probably doesn’t lend as much weight for the Oscar Best Picture race as pundits normally give to SAG’s cast award, which is often thought of as their version of Best Picture.
The Oscar nominations earlier this week showed no love throughout the individual branches of the Academy except the large actors group which gave it three nominations (Davis, Spencer and another supporting actress contender Jessica Chastain) to go with its Best Picture nod. With no directing, writing or editing (not to mention song, costumes, art direction where it also might have competed) the odds are very long that The Help can use its impressive showing at SAG to propel it into a dogfight with frontrunner The Artist. With Oscar ballots shipping on Wednesday …
The Artist won best picture and Michael Hazanavicius was named best director tonight at the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Other winners included George Clooney for best actor in The Descendants and Viola Davis who took best actress for her work in The Help. Christopher Plummer was named best supporting actor for Beginners and Octavia Spencer supporting actress for The Help. The Tree Of Life and War Horse tied for best cinematography. Hugo took the award for art direction and best editing went to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The Help also was honored with best acting ensemble. Woody Allen was awarded best original screenplay for Midnight In Paris. Thomas Horn was voted best young actor/actress for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. Best animated feature went to Rango, and Bridesmaids was named best comedy. The awards are presented by the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
The complete list of winners:
George Clooney – “The Descendants”
Viola Davis – “The Help”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christopher Plummer – “Beginners”
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Octavia Spencer – “The Help”
BEST YOUNG ACTOR/ACTRESS
Thomas Horn – “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close”
BEST ACTING ENSEMBLE
Michel Hazanavicius – “The Artist”
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“Midnight in Paris” – Woody Allen
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“Moneyball” – Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin, Story by Stan Chervin
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY (TIE)
“The Tree of Life”
The Best Actress race is hot this year.
That isn’t always the case as the paucity of realistic contenders in this category often reflects the lack of good roles for women in Hollywood. But the gods were smiling in 2011, providing killer parts for a nice mix of veterans, past nominees and winners and young stars looking for their first major recognition from Oscar. But as usual, Meryl Streep leads the pack. Here’s the rundown.
MERYL STREEP, THE IRON LADY
You know you are in a different league when people start saying it is high time you had another Oscar when you already have two at home. But Streep is indeed in another league and in fact only keeps breaking her own records. With 16 nominations — far more than any actor in film history — it has still been 29 years since she last won (for 1982′s Sophie’s Choice), and many feel that with her portrayal of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher her time has come again. The New York Critics agreed, but she’s been in this position before and there’s stiff competition.
MICHELLE WILLIAMS, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN
The stiffest competition for Streep may well be coming from two-time nominee Williams whose multi-layered portrayal of screen icon Marilyn Monroe as she attemps to make …
Dreamworks’ awards contender The Help got into the spirit of the season and held their first annual Help holiday cocktail party Wednesday night at Soho House in West Hollywood. Call me cynical but this is probably also The Help’s LAST annual holiday cocktail party as I doubt Dreamworks is going to gather the cast and filmmakers to do this every year.
Nevertheless this is one group that had plenty to celebrate considering the box office and awards haul it has collected so far. That includes five Golden Globe nominations including Best Picture Drama, four SAG award nominations including Outstanding Cast, eight Critics Choice Nominations including Best Picture, a spot on the AFI’s 10 Best List, and numerous acting awards from critics groups. The August release which has grossed $169 million domestically has continued to stay in the picture so successfully that it is looking likely to grab multiple Oscar nominations including one for Best Picture.
Among those at the packed party last night were stars Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain and Mary Steenburgen along with producers Chris Columbus and Brunson Green. The industry crowd included producers Larry Mark, Donald DeLine, Brian Oliver and other Academy members and press. Davis told me she is trying not to become too overwhelmed by all the awards attention. “I look at it as a big tidal wave. It is either going to completely roll over and consume me or I am going to ride it,” she said. Despite all the recognition (she won …
New York, NY (December 20, 2011) – The Black Film Critics Circle (BFCC) has voted “THE HELP” Best Film of 2011, Dee Rees Best Director for “PARIAH”, Viola Davis Best Actress for “THE HELP” and Olivier Litondo Best Actor for “THE FIRST GRADER”. The announcement was made by today by Mike Sargent, co-president, BFCC. Votes were cast and tabulated in NY at the organization’s annual meeting on December 19, 2011.
Recognizing achievements in theatrical motion pictures, the BFCC awarded prizes in 13 categories including best picture, best director, original and adapted screenplay, best actor, best actress, best supporting actor, best supporting actress, best animated feature, best independent film, best documentary feature, best foreign film and best ensemble. Special Signature awards are also given to industry pioneers and rising stars.
“This year was a very engaging one in cinema,” says Sargent. “Both commercial and independent fare illustrated the continued ability of Hollywood to entertain, spotlight new talent, show fresh perspectives and move audiences. Congratulations to all of the winners.”
The complete list of award winners include:
Best Picture – THE HELP
Best Director – Dee Rees for PARIAH
Best Actor – Olivier Litondo for THE FIRST GRADER
Best Actress – Viola Davis for THE HELP
Best Supporting Actor – Albert Brooks for DRIVE
Best Supporting Actress – Octavia Spencer for THE HELP
Best Independent Film – PARIAH
Best Original Screenplay – Dee Rees for PARIAH
Best Adapted Screenplay – Tate Taylor for THE HELP
Best Documentary – BEING ELMO: A Puppeteer’s Journey
Best Foreign Film – LIFE, ABOVE ALL
Best Animated Film – RANGO
Best Ensemble – THE HELP