"The Help" became a surprise hit at the box office over the summer, grossing more than $175 million worldwide -- and months later, star Viola Davis still seems bowled over by the movie's success.
"It's not only been a box-office success. It's been a heart success for people," Davis said at the Hollywood Awards on Monday night, where she and a number of "The Help" cast members were on hand to accept the prize for best ensemble.
"People feel again. They're coming out of this movie feeling something and not just saying, 'Oh, it was a great escape for two hours.' Their hearts have been convicted. That's big."
Before the film hit theaters, cast member Allison Janney admitted she was nervous that the movie’s ticket sales might not compare to the sales of the popular book upon which "The Help" is based.
"I knew there was a lot of pressure on us because of the success of the book. Like, 'Oh my God, is this gonna possibly do as well?' " Janney said. "I don't know how you can equate the two, but I think the movie has far surpassed what anyone thought it would do at the box office, certainly."
The film's popularity has even opened doors for some of its stars in Hollywood. Octavia Spencer, known prior to "The Help" largely as a character actress, said the film has led to a wealth of new career opportunities –- she's about to start work on Diablo Cody's directorial debut.
"I'm so thrilled. I never, ever would have had that opportunity before now," Spencer said. "I've never really gotten to play roles, I've only gotten to play parts ... a part usually is like something to facilitate the plot. To do a role where a character experiences some type of change from beginning to end is something I've never had the opportunity to do. So it's wonderful."
-- Amy Kaufman
Photo: Emma Stone, left, Allison Janney, Viola Davis, Cicely Tyson, Ahna O'Reilly, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard and Mary Steenburgen at the Hollywood Awards on Monday. Credit: Kristian Dowling / Associated Press