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Category: The Help

Is Jennifer Lawrence revisiting the wilderness-mama genre with 'Glass Castle'?

April 23, 2012 |  2:27 pm

Jenniferlawrence
While promoting “The Hunger Games” last month, Jennifer Lawrence quipped, “I don’t know what it is with me and maternal wilderness girls. I just love 'em.…” The 21-year-old actress was referring not only to her role as Katniss Everdeen in the uber-blockbuster that has now racked up more than $350 million but also to her Academy Award-nominated part as Ree Dolly in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” While the films are markedly different, both feature strong female protagonists who must take on a motherly role because their parents can't fulfill their responsibilities.

That trend seems to be continuing. Not even the intensity of playing Katniss has seemed to abate the actress’ passion for the “maternal wilderness girl.” According to Deadline Hollywood this morning, Lawrence is eyeing another such part in an adaptation of journalist and gossip columnist Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir “The Glass Castle.”

Lionsgate declined to comment for this story, but it seems Lawrence has little fear about being typecast. “The Glass Castle” is Walls’ chronicle of her unorthodox childhood as one of four children who had to fend for themselves after their eccentric parents proved unable. The book, published in 2005, spent some 250 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and was a favorite among many book clubs.

Paramount Pictures scooped up the movie rights to the book the year it was published via its deal with Brad Pitt’s production company Plan B but was never able to turn it into a feature film. The project went into turnaround, and producer Gil Netter (“The Blind Side,”) bought it. According to screenwriter Marti Noxon, who is just signing her deal to work on the script, Lionsgate’s president of production, Eric Feig, pounced on the project before Gill and Noxon were able to take it out as a pitch.

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Oscars 2012: Octavia Spencer calls 'Help' ensemble a 'beautiful unit'

February 27, 2012 |  5:47 am

Christian Bale and Octavia Spencer

Octavia Spencer, who was named best supporting actress at the Oscars for her role as Southern maid Minny Jackson in the civil-rights-era drama "The Help," was not in the mood to appear in the press room after the Academy Awards telecast on Sunday night, asking that she not have to take too many questions.

Indeed Spencer, who cried onstage after her win, seemed exhausted and overwhelmed to the point of being edgy. When asked about her thoughts on the lack of diversity in the motion picture academy, which is largely white and male, the African American actress bristled just a bit.

“I don’t have any thoughts about it; it’s not something I’ve thought about. I wish I could be more eloquent — elegant in answering that question,” she said. “I can’t tell the academy what to do, honey. They just gave me an Oscar.”

PHOTOS: Red carpet arrivals | Quotes | Winners | Best & Worst

A moment later, after she took another question, she seemed to feel bad about her answer.

“I didn’t mean to cut you off, ma’am,” she said to the reporter who asked the diversity question. “I just knew where you were going, and I didn’t want to get on that bus.”

The usually chipper actress’ mood brightened when she was asked about her experience working on “The Help.”

“It’s rare that you have the type of ensemble that we had,” she said. “We left our egos at the door and worked as one beautiful unit.”

But at the end of the day, Spencer said that she felt she was accepting the Oscar on the part of those who lived through the civil rights struggle.

“I’m a benefactor of all of the riches that the real-life Minnys, Aibileens and Celias basically reaped,” said Spencer. “I’m very humble because I get to stand here and accept this award, and I haven’t really done anything.”

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— Jessica Gelt

Photo: Octavia Spencer with presenter Christian Bale and her award for supporting actress for "The Help" backstage at the 84th Academy Awards.  Credit: Joel Ryan/Associated Press.


Oscars 2012: Despite Halle and Denzel, gold mostly eludes nonwhites

February 24, 2012 |  5:01 pm

Hattie McDaniel

A decade ago, Halle Berry and Denzel Washington made history when they became the first African American performers to win the top acting Oscars in the same year, for "Monster's Ball" (Berry) and "Training Day" (Washington). A third black actor, Will Smith, also was nominated that year, and Sidney Poitier took home a lifetime achievement award. 

"This moment is so much bigger than me," Berry said at the time. "This moment is for Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll.... This is for every faceless woman who now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."

But in the decade since, Berry's prediction has been slow to materialize, and a new UCLA study explores some of the underlying reasons why.

Oscars 2012: Cheat Sheet | Key Scenes | Pundit's picks | Ballot

Titled "Not Quite a Breakthrough: The Oscars and Actors of Color, 2002-2012," the study was sponsored by the Chief Justice Earl Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy, UC Berkeley School of Law and the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.Oscar voters study

Drawing a parallel between 2002 and 2012, the report notes in its opening paragraph that this year's Oscar nominees include two black women, Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer, as well as the Mexican actor Demián Bichir. The authors go on to observe that from 2002 through 2012, "almost 20 percent of nominees were people of color," a "notable increase" over the 9% of Oscar nominees in the top categories who were people of color between 1990 and 2000.

That's the good news. However, the study further observes that:

• All lead actress winners since 2002 have been white.
• No winner in any acting category during the last 10 years has been Latino, Asian
American or Native American.
• Oscar winners and nominees of color make fewer movies per year after their
nominations than their white peers do.
• Oscar winners and nominees of color are more likely than their white peers to
work in television, which is considered lower-status work.
• Oscar winners and nominees of color are less likely than their white peers to
receive subsequent nominations.

It's questionable whether television still is regarded as "lower-status work" than film, given the critical praise that's been heaped on ambitious, high-quality TV series such as "The Wire," "Treme" and "The Sopranos."

More complex is the question of why Oscar distribution tends to favor white over nonwhite actors. As a recent L.A. Times story documented, the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is indeed overwhelmingly white (94%) and male (77%). But the poor showing of nonwhite actors during Oscar season also simply reflects the under-representation of nonwhite actors in Hollywood films as a whole.

As L.A.Times reporter Lorenza Munoz wrote in a prescient March 2002 story about Washington and Berry's Oscar triumph, when individual nonwhite actors win Oscars they're unlikely to open doors for other nonwhites. That's because today's bottom-line-driven Hollywood studio industry is increasingly reliant on the international market, "where having minorities and women in starring roles is considered a detriment, particularly in action blockbusters," Munoz wrote.

Munoz's story went on to quote James Ulmer, author of "James Ulmer's Hollywood Hot List," which tracks actors' global marketability. "None of this is going to change the fact that you cannot package or sell [a movie] to the world market today with a black woman," Ulmer said of Berry and Washington's achievement. "I don't see [the Oscar win] as changing an industry where white male actors drive the train of the international marketplace." Those comments seem just as applicable, or more, today.

But, as the UCLA study's authors also observe, the issue isn't just the infrequency of nonwhite actors earning Oscar nominations and wins. It's also the limited types of roles for which nonwhite actors do  get nominated for Oscars. For example, they write, the Oscars still tend to reward black females not for playing women like Berry's tough, complex, erotically charged character in "Monster's Ball," but for roles that conform to old Hollywood racial stereotypes of black women "who are sassy, full-figured, maternal, or non-sexual."

"In short," the report asserts, "Hollywood has required black female Oscar nominees and winners to resemble Hattie McDaniel more than Halle Berry."

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-- Reed Johnson

Photo: Hattie McDaniel became the first African American female to win the supporting actress Oscar, playing Scarlett O'Hara's Mammy in "Gone With the Wind." Credit: Marc Wanamaker / Bison Archives


'The Help,' Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer take NAACP Image honors

February 17, 2012 |  7:29 pm

The Help
The box-office hit "The Help" took top honors Friday at the 43rd NAACP Image Awards, winning best film, lead actress and supporting actress.

Viola Davis won lead actress and Octavia Spencer earned the supporting actress prize for the film, a look at domestic help and their employers in the South on the cusp of the civil rights movement. "The Help" is also nominated for the best film Oscar at next week's Academy Awards ceremony, and Davis and Spencer are also nominated.

The Image Awards were presented at the Shrine Auditorium and telecast on NBC. Actress Sanaa Lathan and actor Anthony Mackie hosted the event, which featured a tribute to the late Whitney Houston performed by gospel singer Yolanda Adams.

The romantic comedy-drama "Jumping the Broom" also scored well in the feature film categories with Laz Alonso earning the lead actor award, Mike Epps supporting actor and Salim Akil best director.

Other film awards handed out Friday evening included "Pariah" for outstanding independent motion picture, Angelina Jolie's "In the Land of Blood and Honey" won foreign film honors and Ann Peacock won for her screenplay of "The First Grader."

George Lucas received the NAACP Vanguard Award.

On the television front, "Tyler Perry's House of Payne" won best comedy series and Keshia Knight Pulliam won supporting actress for the sitcom. Malcolm-Jamal Warner and Tracee Ellis Ross won lead actor and actress in a comedy series for "Reed Between the Lines" and Nick Cannon earned supporting actor for "Up All NIght."

"Law & Order: Special Victim's Unit" took best drama series honors, while LL Cool J won best actor in a drama series for "NCIS: Los Angeles" and Regina King took home best actress for "Southland." James Pickens Jr. earned supporting actor for "Grey's Anatomy" and Archie Panjabi won supporting actress for "The Good Wife."

For a complete list of winners, which also include music and literature categories, go to http://www.naacpimageawards.net

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--Susan King

Photo: Cicely Tyson, left, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, producers Michael Barnathan, Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Tate Taylor accept the award for best film for "The Help" at the NAACP Image Awards. Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards.


Heat Meter: 'The Help' gets a SAG Awards boost, but is it enough?

January 30, 2012 |  3:20 pm

Help

This post has been corrected. Please see below for details.

The Screen Actors Guild awards on Sunday night gave a huge boost to “The Help,” with the Viola Davis-Octavia Spencer picture scoring three wins, including the coveted prize for best cast.

According to The Times’ Heat Meter rankings, the wins beefed up the movie’s overall score — tallied by all wins or nominations garnered by anyone affiliated with a given film — by a significant margin, taking it from 198 points to 322.

That helps the film go from a distant fourth to a nearly second-place tie with “The Descendants,” which has 325 points. ("The Artist" is solidly in first with 416.)

SAG Awards: Photos | 360° tour | Photo booth | Winners | Stage set-up time lapse | Video

But can “The Help” actually pull off the coup of best picture at the Oscars?

Fans of the Tate Taylor film were quick to point out that in 2006, another movie about race, “Crash,” came out of nowhere to win the big one. And “Crash” also won the SAG cast award over that year’s favorite, “Brokeback Mountain,” before going on to stage its Oscar upset.

But as many pundits pointed out, the “Crash” analogy doesn’t exactly hold. That film won Oscars for writing and editing — categories in which “The Help” hasn’t even been nominated. In fact, the last time a movie won best picture without an editing nom came a long time ago, in 1980, when “Ordinary People” pulled off the feat.

So despite the “Help” surge, “The Artist” remains the front-runner. For now.

[Tuesday, 11:21 am: An earlier version of this post noted that "Crash" won an Oscar for directing; it won for writing.]

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Octavia Spencer wins for supporting female actor

— Steven Zeitchik

http://twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Viola Davis, left, and Octavia Spencer in "The Help." Credit: DreamWorks.


SAG Awards 2012: Six (odd) things we learned

January 30, 2012 |  6:30 am

Sagsix

The 18th Screen Actors Guild Awards were not without their odd revelations. Here's a look at some of the comments and moments that stood out:

1. Sofia Vergara of "Modern Family" fame told E!'s Giuliana Rancic that despite the scuttlebutt, she always wears underwear, no matter where she goes.

2. George Clooney of "The Descendants" is past the "drop trou" point of his career. "I'm 50," Clooney responded when asked if he'd bare all for a movie role. "So it's just trying to get my trou up!"

3. Alec Baldwin is "still scared to speak up [on politics]."

Baldwin, who isn't exactly known for keeping his opinions under wrap, nonetheless said Sunday: "I want Season 7 [of '30 Rock'] really badly. When you do speak out, it does cost you. The people that are the greatest film stars today and have the most potent careers are ones you know nothing about. They're very sanitized. And maybe I should have been more like that."

4. An open bar is still a draw, no matter who is in the crowd.

"This all free," said Kristen Wiig, holding up what looked to be a pint of beer. Joined by her "Bridesmaids" peers Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy, the costars explained that they have devised a drinking game for all their awards-show appearances of late. "You take a drink every time you hear the word 'Scorsese,'" said Rudolph.

5. Octavia Spencer of "The Help" loves "taking men home." The Actor winner -- who, to be fair, was referencing her newly acquired hardware -- didn't shy away from talking about her hopes for a win next month at the Academy Awards.

"I would be lying if I didn't say to you I would love to win an Oscar," Spencer said. "But we have a group of brilliantly talented actresses, and it's not a foregone conclusion that because I've won these [awards] then I'll win [the Oscar]. I would never be that presumptuous. I mean, Melissa McCarthy, Jessica Chastain, Janet McTeer are in that category. Pretty brilliant."

6. Someone else's shop talk is yawn-inducing, even if their jobs are more glamorous. SAG President Ken Howard's mid-show speech announcing the impending merger of the two major acting unions, SAG and AFTRA, probably left most of America shrugging their shoulders.

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-- Patrick Day and Todd Martens

Photos: Clockwise from top left; Octavia Spencer, Kristen Wiig, Maya Rudolph and Melissa McCarthy;  Sofia Vergara and Alec Baldwin. Credits: Matt Sayles / Associated Press; Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; Joe Klamar / AFP/Getty Images and Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times


SAG Awards: Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer on acting, injustice and awards-season frenzy

January 29, 2012 |  9:09 pm

Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis

Why, yes, Viola Davis does find it strange and exciting that she beat out veteran actress Meryl Streep (the woman who gets nominated for just about everything) to take the SAG award for female actor in a leading role for her turn in "The Help." “I feel pretty overwhelmed with my name being called,” Davis said backstage Sunday night when the cast answered questions about the film's best ensemble win.

Earlier, of course, Davis had taken the stage to accept her award for her portrayal of Southern domestic Aibileen Clark in “The Help," the big-screen adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestselling novel. "I just don’t see the ‘best’ thing going on," Davis said. "It’s hard. Every time I start a new job, I feel like I start with a clean slate. … I feel like everyone is going to find out what a hack I am. And it’s strange to triumph over Meryl Streep."

But Cicely Tyson, Davis’ “Help” co-star, wasn’t the least surprised by her win or that of Octavia Spencer, who took the statuette in the supporting female actor category.

SAG Awards: Photos | 360° tour | Photo booth | Winners | Stage set-up time lapse | Video

“I’m not surprised that Viola and Octavia were awarded for the unbelievable work that was done in the film,” Tyson said. “I had a dream — and I told Viola about it — that she and Octavia did win. So it wasn’t a surprise to me. What surprised me is that the two of them were black. That’s unusual … what I saw tonight was extreme promise and hope.”

But for Davis, the role was accompanied not only by acclaim but also some criticism. “During the course of promoting the movie, I found myself having to defend my choice in playing a maid,” she said. “I’ve had to find my voice. I had to find my voice as a woman of color, as an artist. And I never thought I would be put in a position like that. I’m usually in the background of movies. All of a sudden, I was being put to the test, being pushed against the wall. It kind of made me feel what Aibileen felt.”

For her part, Spencer seemed to take pride in the characters and spirit of “The Help.” “I’m thrilled that [the film is] shining a light on women who haven’t been given a voice in our history,” Spencer said.

She also said the experience of playing Southern maid Minny Jackson was a profound one that made her realize “To be silent is to be passive.” While responding to questions backstage, Spencer both voiced her support for gay rights, comparing the issue to past civil rights struggles by women and African Americans, and took on societal standards of beauty.

“It’s our society that has told [women] and continues to tell them when you reach a certain age you’re no longer valuable, that when you reach a certain weight, you’re no longer valuable,” Spencer said. “We have to start standing up for ourselves and saying, 'This is who I am.' ”

The outspoken actress has been on a roll this season, having won awards for her performance at the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and now the SAG Awards. Spencer was honored to be recognized by her fellow actors. “It’s beyond profound,” she said backstage, “because its your peers saying you are the best that you can be tonight.”

Asked by a reporter if she was excited by the chance to continue her success and win an Academy Award in a few weeks, Spencer demurred and praised her competition.

“I would be lying if I didn’t say to you I would love to win an Oscar,” Spencer said. “But we have a group of brilliantly talented actresses, and it’s not a foregone conclusion that because I’ve won these [awards] then I’ll win [the Oscar]. I would never be that presumptuous. I mean, Melissa McCarthy, Jessica Chastain, Janet McTeer are in that category. Pretty brilliant.”

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Photo: Octavia Spencer, left, and Viola Davis backstage at the Screen Actors Guild. Credit: Frederic J. Brown / AFP / Getty Images.


Oscars 2012: 'The Help' producer holds a Four Seasons slumber party

January 24, 2012 |  2:23 pm

"The Help"

It was more than four years ago that "The Help" producer Brunson Green set out with director Tate Taylor and actress Octavia Spencer to turn their friend Kathryn Stockett's novel into a film.

Last night, the trio and a dozen or so other cast and crew members from the production gathered for dinner to celebrate how far they had come, anticipating that the popular movie that explores the relationships among a group of white Southern women and their maids in the 1960s might be rewarded with Oscar nominations.

Deemed the "Come What May" party, the festivities extended through the night as Spencer, Green, Taylor, costars Ahna O'Reilly and Chris Lowell had a sleepover party at a suite at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills.

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"We had a slumber party and barely got any sleep," Green said Tuesday morning after the nominations for the 84th Academy Awards were revealed and his film collected four nods. "And we were all together when the announcements were made. It was pretty cool. Octavia, Tate and I started on this journey almost four years ago, so we figured we might as well be together at the end of the road too."

Green thought he had something special when the film was shooting in Greenwood, Miss., in the summer of 2010 but he never imagined it would end with a best picture nomination.

"Everyone thinks their baby is pretty, but you never know how the rest of the world is going to react," Green said. "The fact that the film has had such a huge audience and people have really embraced it" is the real prize, he added. "The fact that our industry is acknowledging us for making a great movie is just icing on the cake."

Green is especially encouraged by how well the film is doing overseas, since  historical dramas with predominantly black casts don't always translate outside the U.S. The film has done particularly well in  Australia ($7.8 million) and Spain ($4.2 million), two territories that didn't have large book sales.

"One of the coolest things was when I was at the Doha Film Festival with the film. We watched it in Arabic and saw a completely different culture crying at the end of the movie, being emotionally touched by the film and hopefully reflecting on their own society. It really gave me chills."

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-- Nicole Sperling

Photo: "The Help" director Tate Taylor, left, cast members Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis, and producer Brunson Green pose at the Academy's Governors Awards. Credit: Associated Press /Chris Pizzello.


Oscars 2012: 'The Help' has biggest box office among nominees

January 24, 2012 |  7:09 am

The Help has sold more tickets at the box office than any other best picture nominee
Of this year's best picture nominees, "The Help" has been seen by the most American moviegoers.

The civil rights drama released last August has sold $169.6 million in ticket sales -- more than double the domestic gross of any of the other eight films nominated for the top prize at the Oscars.

The Brad Pitt baseball film "Moneyball" takes the runner-up position with $75.5 million, while Steven Spielberg's "War Horse" -- a World War I epic still in many theaters nationwide -- has so far collected $72.3 million.

FULL COVERAGE: Oscar nominations

Martin Scorsese's  "Hugo" and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" each have a tally of around $56 million. The family drama "The Descendants," meanwhile, just crossed the $50 million mark at the box office last weekend.

The nominees with the least commercial appeal include "The Tree of Life" ($13 million) and "The Artist" ($12 million) -- although the latter, a silent picture, has yet to expand beyond 700 theaters. "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" has grossed only $10 million, but it just opened in cinemas across the country last weekend.

When the Academy Award nominations were announced in 2011, the eventual best picture winner "The King's Speech" had grossed about $57 million. The film featuring Colin Firth ended up with $138.8 million in sales. The year before, "The Hurt Locker" saw far less of a box office boost from its win, collecting an underwhelming $17 million in all.

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Pals Clooney, Pitt are rivals; ‘Artist,’ ‘Hugo’ dominate

--Amy Kaufman

twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: Viola Davis, left, stars with Octavia Spencer in "The Help." Credit: Walt Disney Studios


Oscars 2012: Nods for 'The Help's' Octavia Spencer, Jessica Chastain

January 24, 2012 |  6:15 am

"The Help" is among 2012 best picture nominees.Two of the stars of the ensemble film "The Help" -- Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain -- received Oscar nominations for their supporting roles in the civil-rights-era drama, which also earned a nomination for best picture Tuesday morning.

Also nominated in the category were Berenice Bejo for "The Artist," Melissa McCarthy for "Bridesmaids" and Janet McTeer for "Albert Nobbs."

The nomination is the first for Spencer, the 39-year-old character actress who was recognized for her scene-stealing turn as the sassy Southern domestic Minny Jackson in the box office hit set in the early '60s.

FULL COVERAGE: The Oscars

Spencer already has won the Golden Globe and Critics' Choice Movie Award for her performance, as well as the National Board of Review honor as a member of the ensemble of the film. She's also in contention for BAFTA and Screen Actors Guild awards.

The golden girl of 2011, Chastain -- who appeared not only in "The Help" but in "The Debt," "The Tree of Life," "Texas Killing Fields," "Take Shelter" and "Coriolanus" -- also picks up her first Oscar nomination for her role as Celia Foote, a garish Southern woman. Chastain, 30, has won several awards for her work on screen last year: The Chicago Film Critics honored her for "The Tree of Life," the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics recognized her for "Take Shelter," "The Help" and "The Tree of Life," and the Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. honored her for all of her 2011 films. She was nominated for a Golden Globe, the Critics' Choice Movie Award and a SAG award for "The Help."

The category, in fact, is one filled with fresh faces. The Argentina-born Bejo, 35, garners a nomination for her performance as the exuberant song-and-dance gal Peppy Miller in the black-and-white tribute to the dawn of Hollywood's Golden Age. Bejo won the supporting actress prize from the San Diego Film Critics Society and has been nominated for a Critics' Choice Movie Award, a Golden Globe and a SAG award. She is also nominated for a BAFTA in the lead actress category.

McCarthy, the 41-year-old farmer's daughter from Illinois who began her career as a stand-up comedian, received her first nomination for her comedic turn as the outrageous man-crazy Megan in the R-rated box-office sensation. The nomination caps a stellar year for McCarthy, who won the Emmy for lead actress in a comedy series for CBS' "Mike & Molly." She also won the Boston Society of Film Critics honor for "Bridesmaids" and earned nominations at the Critics' Choice Movie Awards and from SAG and BAFTA for her work in the film.

There is one returning nominee, though. Twelve years after earning a lead actress nomination for "Tumbleweeds," 50-year-old British actress McTeer returns to the Academy Award circle with a supporting nomination for her turn as Hubert Page, a lesbian disguising herself as a man in 19th century Ireland. McTeer was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the Glenn Close-led period drama and is also in contention for an Independent Spirit Award and a SAG award.

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-- Susan King

Photo: Jessica Chastain and Octavia Spencer in "The Help." Credit: Dale Robinette /  DreamWorks


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