TATE TAYLOR'S BIG BREAK: How did a former PA on Beavis and Butt-Head wind up writing and directing The Help for DreamWorks? With a lot of help from his friends. Tate Taylor, whose first job was marketing jet fuel, bolted to L.A. from Mississippi, enrolled in the Groundlings and made his first short, Chicken Party (2003), for 40 grand on credit cards. When lifelong pal Kathryn Stockett sent him her manuscript for The Help in 2008, it had been rejected by 60 publishers, but "I could see every scene as a movie. All of her people said, 'Don't let Tate do it!!!' " the 42-year-old says. By the time the novel hit the best-seller list, Taylor had nabbed the rights, and when studios called, he insisted: "I write it, I direct it. That's the deal." There was almost no deal -- until DreamWorks' Stacey Snider took a chance. Recalls Taylor, "I could just see those DreamWorks execs drinking shots of tequila as they transferred the money to my account." Now he is writing three other movies. "I have another gig, so I'm not that worried," he sighs. "I just want another zero after my paycheck!"
Bob Evans on Ratner
The Academy's decision to entrust Brett Ratner with mounting the 84th Oscar show -- which the brash and relatively young director, 42, will produce with veteran TV producer Don Mischer -- raised a lot of eyebrows around Hollywood. After all, Ratner's movies aren't exactly Oscar bait. But the fact that the choice was so unexpected is, argues veteran producer Robert Evans, exactly why he likes it. Quick to give Ratner his imprimatur, Evans tells THR: "He brings a freshness to it. There's nothing more interesting than the unexpected, and he'll give us the unexpected." Of course, Evans, the former Paramount production head, and Ratner are long-standing buddies. Ratner crashed at Evans' legendary Beverly Hills home for a couple of years while his own Hilhaven Lodge was under renovation. "I've been a mentor of his," Evans says proudly.
"I'm just a sucker for tragic love stories," Drew Barrymore tells THR about the new Romeo and Juliet-themed "Supervideo" she directed for MTV -- a two-minute version and an 11-minute mini-movie (which debuts Aug. 10) of the new single "Our Deal" from surf-pop indie band Best Coast. FYI, it's not like the actress-director had nothing else to do -- she's prepping a number of films that she'll produce and direct. "But I'm a total lover of music videos -- and the format is dying!" When MTV offered her the song, Barrymore ran off and penned a script that combines West Side Story, The Warriors and The Outsiders -- "I like romance, and I like action -- so it had to be love on the streets!" She cast Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Tyler Posey (MTV's Teen Wolf) as the Romeo and Juliet of separate L.A. street gangs, complete with denim, leather, pompadours and graffiti. "It took me three years to make Whip It," Barrymore laughs, "and two days to make this! We had like no budget! The best ideas, as my boyfriend [art dealer Will Kopelman] said to me, come from a total lack of time and money."
House Actor Not at Home
At Fox's TCA party for House, held at Gladstones on the Pacific Coast Highway, Robert Sean Leonard kept his distance from all the schmoozing. Instead, we found the actor sitting alone at an indoor booth, munching on grilled shrimp while catching up on economist Paul Krugman's latest New York Times column on his Kindle. Asked if he always brings his Kindle to parties, Leonard said: "I'm here alone. Nobody's talking to me. I've got stuff to read." And, he added, "I know we're supposed to talk [to journalists], but no one has talked to me in eight years. I don't know why they do these. If the show sucks, the show sucks. It won't matter if you had fish fry at Gladstones."
Glee for Wintour's Kid
When Bee Shaffer, Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's daughter, said in the fashion documentary The September Issue that she didn't want to follow her mother into fashion, she meant it. Now she has relocated to L.A. to work for Ryan Murphy's production company, where she's developing TV projects. More fashion television, perhaps? Murphy's rep confirmed that Shaffer has come on board but declined to describe her projects.
Director Greg Mottola (Superbad) had lunch with his wife and daughter at Ray and Stark at LACMA after shooting the pilot of Aaron Sorkin's new pilot for HBO, More as This Story Develops. ... Charlize Theron enjoyed mussels and penne on the patio at Ago with a new mystery man this week. … Seth Rogen and five friends had lunch at Lulu's on Beverly Boulevard. … Chelsea Handler was seen at Café del Rey in the Marina sipping frozen margaritas with a female friend. … At the Polo Lounge on one day, at separate tables: Mel Brooks, Buck Henry, Ben Silverman, Alan Horn, Bryan Lourd, Kevin Huvane, Richard Lovett. … It was a Star Trek: The Next Generation reunion at the Sidebar at the Beverly Wilshire, between Patrick Stewart, who starred as Captain Picard, and Brent Spiner, who played Data, dining together. … Sharon Stone, Sophie Monk, Boardwalk Empire's Michael K. Williams and fashion designer Paula Thomas all spotted dining at the newly opened Rose restaurant on La Cienega. ... E.baldi in Beverly Hills saw the likes of Al Pacino, Kathryn Bigelow, Tony and Ridley Scott, Ron Howard, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jane Fonda, Kirk Douglas, Larry King and Michelle Kwan in for lunch this week. … Rachel Bilson spied at the Mustard Seed on Hillhurst.