'The Help' Premiere: 5 Things Seen and Heard on the Red Carpet
The Hollywood Reporter spoke to the stars of the DreamWorks' The Help at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences in Beverly Hills on Tuesday night.
The movie, which stars Emma Stone, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, centers on Southern black maids and their testy relationships with white female employers in Jackson, Miss., in 1963.
Director Tate Taylor makes his major studio debut on The Help, which is adapted from his longtime friend Kathryn Stockett's best-selling novel. The movie opened in theaters Wednesday.
Here are five things seen and heard on the red carpet at the movie's premiere:
Emma Stone's 1960s-era styling helped her get into character
Stone plays Skeeter Phelan, an aspiring writer in a time and place where many women had no desire or encourage to get a job. She has super-curly hair, thick eyebrows and, of course, a much different wardrobe than women today sport. The actress said her styling helped her understand the character more than any other film she's worked on. "It felt like the physical constrains, with girdles and being so held in, that the undergarments of the time period really hit home for her," she told THR. "And those constrains and the hair and the eyebrows and the four-inch lifts in the shoes all the time, helped me feel a lot more like Skeeter and the first time that's ever really been a huge part of the character development."
The movie became personal for Viola Davis
The actress, who plays maid Aibileen Clark, said it was "exhilarating" to humanize a group of women whom for years have been stereotyped. She also felt like she was honoring the women in her family as well. "I feel like I've brought my mom to life; I've channeled her spirit," she told THR. "I channeled the spirit of my grandmother, and I've kind of paid homage to how they've contributed to my life and the lives of so many people." She also said the movie sends an important message: "There is nothing that can't be overcome with a good, healthy dose of courage."
Bryce Dallas Howard found it challenging to portray a racist
The actress plays Hilly Holbrook, the villainous president of the Jackson Junior League who torments her maid, Minny (Octavia Spencer). To prepare for the role, she did a lot of research, including watching documentaries and talking to people in Greenwood, Miss. -- where the film was shot -- about their experiences during the Civil Rights movment. "[That] made all the difference in the world because the people who lived there went through that experience, and we could all talk to them about it, and it's an experience that changed their lives forever," she said. But she was acutely aware that she couldn't turn the character into a caricature. "So while I kind of avoided getting into the psychology of my character, after a while ultimately I realized that ... if I just turn [my performance] into a farce, you know, that's not going to do justice to what everybody went through," she added.
Taylor has known Stockett since they were 5 years old -- but she still wouldn't let him read her manuscript early on
The duo grew up in Jackson, Miss., together and shared a lot of the same experiences that are reflected in the book. But that doesn't mean she trusted him enough to let him read the manuscript right off the bat. "She wouldn't let me read it! Because you don't want your friends and loved ones to judge you, but then when she was turned down by her 60th agent she's like, OK, you could read it," he said. The director so loved the novel that he acquired the film rights a year before it was published.
Stockett is nervous, excited and relieved about the movie adaptation
The author said she never thought about the possibility of her work being adapted for the big screen while she was writing. "I'm just a dorky writer who hangs out in her pajamas," she told THR. And now that the movie is a reality, she is experiencing a range of emotions. "I'm nervous and I'm excited for Tate," she said. "I got to tell you that there is real relief that it's not about me." She also appreciates that the movie is renewing discussions about race and civil rights. "People are really paying attention to this issue of race for the first time in, I don't know, 15 or 20 years, and I'm really glad," she said. "I feel like people are having conversations that they might not have had ... but look at the same time they're watching this movie that Tate has created and they are laughing. There's a lot of funny moments in there! He just, he nailed it. Octavia Spencer, she's hysterical!"