Helping Hands Get The Help Done
- Monday, August 08, 2011
“It wasn’t about the things that were going on outside; it was what happens inside the home, what happens in the kitchen, what happens when you’re serving dinner—some of those moments where the family’s arguing, and the maid is just standing listening. She’s just listening and reflecting on what they’re saying. And that was the way he wanted to tell the story. It’s very effective.”
Barnathan became involved with helping the film project along with his 1492 Pictures producing partner Chris Columbus (Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief), who also worked with Brunson Green, a film producer and another longtime friend of Stockett’s and Taylor’s who is also a Jackson native.
Green knew that he and Taylor had to find the right partners to get the film made, so that the story would stay true to its roots and translate well from page to screen.
“It’s all inspired by people that [Kathryn’s] known and loved for years,” Green says. “The fact is, everyone’s had a caretaker in their life whether it’s an aunt, uncle or a nanny. And it’s something that everybody kind of relates to, and [The Help] brings those memories back in your head.”
Taylor first asked Columbus, who he had known for some time, to read the book.
“I thought, ‘I don’t know if I want to read this,’” Columbus says remembering when he first got the story in his hands. “So I gave it to my wife who read it over the weekend and said, ‘You guys should really be making this a movie.’ So I read it on that Monday, and that was the point where it turned around for me.
“Tate was obsessed with making it his first big studio movie, and so when he turned in the script, we brought it to a lot of places and there was a bit of nervousness,” Columbus admits. “Tate is a first-time director, so I have to hand it to DreamWorks for supporting Tate on this movie for his first [studio] movie.
“The film is filled with little [southern] details, and no one else could have brought that to the screen,” he continues. “I wouldn’t have known a deviled egg from a piece of sushi. So for me [to direct], it would have been a disaster. But for someone like Tate who lived the life . . . no one else could get [the details] except for these guys and that was fascinating. It was great to watch and to be on the set to learn that.”
The Ways of the South
As the film begins, the audience is immersed in the Deep South circa 1962. Skeeter Phelan is a young college graduate, fresh out of Ole Miss, and has moved back home with her parents, Charlotte and Robert. She’s ready to put her journalism degree to good use. But who, what, when, where, why and how? Thankfully, she soon nabs a job writing a “Miss Myrna” cleaning hints column for the local newspaper. It’s not much, but her writing career looks like it’s finally getting started.
Only problem is, however, what does a privileged young woman like Skeeter who’s always had “help” know about anything domestic? Not a whole lot. And so an enterprising Skeeter enlists the help of Aibileen Clark, her friend Elizabeth Leefolt’s maid, while playing bridge one day with the Junior League ladies at Elizabeth’s house.
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