A film that I thought might actually be released later this year as a potential awards season contender (it has all the makings of one), director Ted Melfi’s “Hidden Figures,” the much-anticipated feature film adaptation of Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name, which won’t be published until September by HarperCollins (although you can preorder a copy now; see below), tells the untold true story of some of the African American women mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Civil Rights era.
Starring in the film are Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae, as the unsung scientists.
They are joined in supporting roles by Mahershala Ali, Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons, Kirsten Dunst and Glen Powell in the film,
The adaptation was developed by producer Donna Gigliotti (producer of Oscar-caliber fare like “Shakespeare In Love” and “Silver Linings Playbook”), with Allison Schroeder penning the screenplay adaptation, which 20th Century Fox picked up, with a January 2017 release date eyed.
As I began saying at the start of this post, the January release suggests that the film isn’t necessarily an awards season property for the studio; unless it gets a late 2016 qualifying run in a limited number of theaters (NYC and LA specifically), and then opens wide in January 2017. No one has read the book yet because it hasn’t been published (except the people who are making a film based on it), but it certainly reads like potential awards material – especially at a time of movements like #OscarsSoWhite.
Shetterly’s “Hidden Figures” tells the untold true story of the African American women mathematicians – Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan, Kathryn Peddrew, Sue Wilder, Eunice Smith and Barbara Holley – who worked at NASA during the Civil Rights era. Their stories unfold through the personal accounts of 4 specific women that then-NASA staffers referred to as “the colored computers.” Shetterly, whose father was one of the first African American engineers employed by NASA, is a journalist.
The New York Times got an early look at the upcoming movie, including a couple of photos of the main cast (above), as well as interviews with the same cast and key crew. In the piece, they talk about how the project came to be, and their concerns over it being labeled a “black film.” As Henson says at the end of the piece, “I hate when I do a film, and it has a lot of African Americans and they call it a black film… I don’t wake up and go, ‘Let’s see, this weekend, I’m going to see a Chinese film, I’m going see a black film, no I’m going see a white film with a black person in it.’ Who does that?… This is a female-driven movie about contributions that women really made, to our world, not just our society… That’s a big statement.”
Pharrell Williams is one of the film’s producers. He will also write songs for it, as well as work with Hans Zimmer on its score.
Read the full New York Times piece here.
Shetterly’s book will be published in September of this year; but you can preorder your copy right now via Amazon. Just click on the book cover image below.