The A-List: Hidden Figures
director Ted Melfi
By Iain Blair
When writer/producer/director Ted Melfi (St. Vincent) first came across the true story behind his new film, Hidden Figures, he was amazed that it had never been told before.
The drama recounts the history of an elite team of black female mathematicians at NASA who helped win the all-out space race against the Soviet Union and, at the same time, brought issues of race, equal rights, sexism and opportunity to the surface of 1960s society.
Focusing on a trio of women who crossed gender, race and professional lines, it stars Oscar-nominee Taraji P. Henson (Empire, Benjamin Button), Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station, The Help), singer Janelle Monáe (making her motion picture debut) and two-time Oscar-winner Kevin Costner (Field of Dreams, Dances With Wolves).
Based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, the film was written by Melfi and screenwriter Allison Schroeder, who reports that the subject matter was already embedded in her DNA. “I grew up a NASA baby in Florida,” she explains. “My grandparents and dad all worked there, and then I interned there for four years during high school and worked for a missile launch company after my freshman year at college.” She then channeled that family history and her own workplace experiences into a story about “what it was like to be a woman in science and mathematics back then.”
Not long ago, I spoke with Melfi about making the film and his workflow.
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