The #OscarsSoWhite movement hit Hollywood after a lack of diversity among the major categories at the Academy Awards the last two years. And director Tate Taylor is an interesting footnote to that history.
A white director who in 2011 made “The Help” – the Oscar-winning adaptation of a novel about the hardships of a group of African-American maids during the civil rights movement – he said he dealt with the ridicule of being “a white guy” telling “black stories” (he followed “The Help” with the James Brown biopic “Get on Up” in 2014).
Though he admits he hasn’t spoken publicly about the movement, Taylor said what’s going on is warranted.
“I mean, you can’t help but see it’s so obvious,” Taylor recently told Business Insider while promoting his new movie “The Girl on The Train” (opening Friday) about the lack of diversity in the industry.
Taylor recalls that when he was pitching “The Help,” the biggest concern for studios was that the subject matter would not be profitable. But with a cast that included Octavia Spencer (who won an Oscar for the role), Emma Stone, Viola Davis, and Jessica Chastain (the latter two got Oscar nominations), the $25 million-budgeted period drama went on to earn over $216 million at the worldwide box office.
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Taylor believes the success of “The Help” aided movies like “12 Years a Slave” (which won best picture in 2014) and “Selma” in making it to theaters.
“What excited me is when I was going around with ‘The Help,’ the fear was it’s black-themed material, does it do well? Look what came out after ‘The Help,'” Taylor said.
But when asked if the industry has changed to a point where it would be more difficult for a white director to make “The Help” today, Taylor says he thinks it still comes down to who you know.
“Here’s my answer, and it’s not the answer you want to hear,” Taylor said. “The reason ‘The Help’ got made was because Steven Spielberg read my script and he said, ‘If this guy wrote that, he’s already directed the movie – let’s do it.’ Hopefully I would like to think that’s still in play today. I think it is. I think despite the circumstances, instincts tell you to just do this. It has happened to me on projects I’ve acquired. I think that will always be around.”