'Hidden Figures' Lands Capitol Hill Screening as Oscar Voting Begins (Exclusive)

Courtesy of Hopper Stone

"The film is the one thing that people can agree on in this point in time," says director Theodore Melfi, adding that he expects an equal mix of Democrats and Republicans to attend Wednesday's event.

As Oscar voting gets underway Monday, Fox 2000 and Chernin Entertainment's Hidden Figures has landed a special screening on Capitol Hill this week.

U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both from Virginia — where the NASA biographical drama is set — are hosting the Feb. 15 event inside the Capitol Visitor Center alongside Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia.

All four lawmakers are Democrats but the film's director, Theodore Melfi, tells The Hollywood Reporter a number of Republican leaders have expressed their admiration for the film, including Sen. Ted Cruz and GOP figurehead Mike Huckabee.

Hidden Figures, which is nominated for a best picture Oscar, recounts the little-known story of three black female mathematicians who helped NASA put the first men into space in the early 1960s even while having to cope with a segregated workplace and society.

"The film is the one thing that people can agree on in this point in time," Melfi said, adding that he expects the turnout at Wednesday's screening to be bipartisan. "We didn't expect this kind of Republican support."

Mefli said he doesn't intend to take aim at President Donald Trump's administration when introducing the film on Capitol Hill, as part of an initiative to acknowledge the value of science, technology and math education. "The message should be about unity, since the film is about putting the good of the whole forward," he said. "This country has a sordid experience with racism."

Hidden Figures isn't the only best picture candidate capitalizing on the political spotlight as Oscar voting gets underway. Moonlight, from A24, has partnered with My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a mentoring program launched by former President Barack Obama's administration, to host a number of screenings of the film in celebration of Black History Month.

Castmembers from Denzel Washington's Fences, including Viola Davis, likewise are hosting screenings in honor of Black History Month. 

Elsewhere, Harvey Weinstein has taken out ads for best-picture nominee Lion in major publications — including The New York Times — that allude to the dangerous precedent President Trump's immigration policies would set. Lion tells the story of a grown man (Dev Patel) living in Australia who uses Google Earth to trace his birth family in India; the film's young star, Sunny Pawar, reportedly had trouble obtaining a visa in early November to attend the movie's U.S. premiere.

"As a refugee, an immigrant and a mother, Lion resonated deeply with me," says former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in one of the Lion promos. "It is a remarkable film and a testament to the indomitable human spirit."

To date, Hidden Figures has earned the most in North America of any film competing in the Oscar best picture race. Through Sunday the film — starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer (who is nominated for best supporting actress) and Janelle Monae — has grossed $131.5 million, compared to $125 million domestically for frontrunner La La Land. (Globally, La La Land is well ahead with nearly $300 million in worldwide grosses.)

"This [Hidden Figures] is such a powerful story, especially for young people, and I think the film comes at an important time in our history," said Sen. Warner in a statement. "It celebrates the triumph of individual drive. It affirms the value of inclusion. And it also reminds all of us that America is at its best when we lean in to the future together. I wanted all of my congressional colleagues to have an opportunity to share in this story."

Also on Wednesday, Melfi and Margot Lee Shetterly, who wrote the book upon which the film is based, will receive a special medal from NASA, while the U.S State Department is planning on screening Hidden Figures at its embassies around the globe. 

Oscar voting ends Feb. 21. The other films competing in the best-picture category include Arrival, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water and Manchester by the Sea.
 

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