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“The Help” director Tate Taylor on awards, the box office success and his amazing cast – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: Tate Taylor’s ensemble dramedy “The Help,” his crowd-pleasing adaptation of close friend Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel, has been an awards contender since … well, since it opened back in August. And Taylor will tell you, it feels like he hasn’t stopped talking about the film, his cast, and the film’s impact since late summer, when the story of brave Southern women fighting for basic human rights captivated filmgoers.

I felt bad making Taylor talk even more about his movie, but with the awards season kicking into high gear, I knew I’d be one of thousands hoping to get the young director’s opinion on the happenings surrounding “The Help.” And it’s only going to get busier. The movie just grabbed eight Critics’ Choice Movie Award nominations, including Bets Picture. The next day, it claimed multiple Screen Actors Guild noms including Best Ensemble.

And yet, Taylor remains as open, gracious honest and funny as he was when we first sat down to discuss “The Help” back in August. Here’s Tate Taylor, catching me up on all things “Help” as the film rides a massive awards wave of support:

HollywoodNews.com: When it opened back in August, “The Help” stayed at No. 1 at the box office for four consecutive weekends. It is the only film that accomplished that this year. What did that feel like?

Tate Taylor: You know, it’s really, really strange. I somehow feel – perhaps because it’s so overwhelming – it almost doesn’t even seem real. It’s like, there’s this movie that we made as such a close-knit family – the actors, the crew, the experience, the great state of Mississippi – it seems like there was this experience that we had, and there’s this thing that is happening. So I often find myself having to remind myself, “That’s your movie!” I know that sounds strange. It’s frightening, it’s exhilarating, it’s strange.

But those four weeks? The main word is “pride.” It wasn’t a “gloat” feeling. It wasn’t even, “Hell yeah, we rock!” When you write something and you pour your heart and soul into it, the best thing you can have is human validation. To know that people loved it that much and were going back to see it again. They were going to see ordinary women do great things. And to hear about conversations taking place in parking lots of malls … that just made me excited. I looked at it as like a four-week party of people being truthful with each other. And that made me excited that I cold do that and affect people.

HollywoodNews.com: Given the film’s box office successes and now these various awards nominations, greenlighting “The Help” seems like a no-brainer, in hindsight, but I’m guessing that wasn’t the case. Was it a fight?

Well, of course, because look who was directing it? [Laughs] And how can you blame this town? I hope to be in a position one day where I can greenlight a movie, and if I saw myself on paper and saw the genre of the film … the studio had to be like, “Are you crazy, Tate? You’re asking for financial suicide! This guy is nobody. He’s unproven.” So it was very hard, and it took the bravery and the true genius of DreamWorks studio to recognize what could be instead of what wasn’t present on paper. They believed. They took a huge chance on me, and it worked.

HollywoodNews.com: You also had someone very special in your corner in Kathryn Stockett.

Oh, well, of course. This whole movie is about that. It’s about me putting my best friend, Octavia Spencer – who was my roommate at the time – in the role of Minny. Giving her that shot, not as a favor, but knowing that she would be the best at the part. And then getting to watch what has happened to her, and Kathryn believing in me and letting me have the rights. The story behind the story sounds like a movie. It sounds made up, but it’s all real!

HollywoodNews.com: And the funny part is that everything that sounds like it might have been a gamble is accepted. Now, we couldn’t imagine anybody but Octavia in that role.

Of course not! Or Allison Janney as Skeeter’s mom. I mean, I wrote that for her. Could you imagine anybody else playing any of those roles now? No. Those women are so amazing.

HollywoodNews.com: The film is being recognized for its performances and its screenplay, but as the director, is their a below-the-line aspect of the film that you’re proud of and would hope could be recognized?

Two of the greatest relationships I took from this project were my [Director of Photography], Stephen Goldblatt – who is just a master, and I learned so much from him – and my editor, Hughes Winborne. It was just he and I for months, and it was just one of the most glorious experiences working and learning and sharing with that man. Absolutely.

“The Help” earned an impressive $169.2 million in domestic grosses this year. It’s currently available on DVD and Blu-ray from Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

And because we never tire of sharing Viola Davis’ moving acceptance speech at our Hollywood Film Awards gala, here’s the SAG-nominated actress speaking on behalf of her “Help” ensemble in October:

Awards Alley brings you the best Oscar coverage. Click below to read our exclusive interviews with:
Harvey Weinstein
– The cast of “The Artist.”
Sir Ben Kingsley and Chloe Grace Moretz for “Hugo.”
Tilda Swinton for “We Need to Talk About Kevin.”
Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer for “The Help.”
Gary Oldman and Colin Firth for “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”
Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Jason Reitman and Diablo Cody for “Young Adult.”
Steve McQueen for “Shame.”
Glenn Close for “Albert Nobbs.”
Seth Rogen and Will Reiser for “50/50.”

For complete Oscar and Film Festival coverage, visit our Awards Alley for the latest news items, reviews and interviews all season long.

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