The Help casting controversy

Aug 18, 2011 at 12:53 p.m. ET

Fans of the film, The Help, have found themselves in the midst of a delicious influx of information from the book's writer, Kathryn Stockett, and writer/director Tate Taylor. Now comes new details about why it took so long to cast the film. This wasn't your ordinary casting couch, this is a tale of friendship, happenstance and just being in the right place at the right time.

It is now part of movie history about the longstanding friendship between The Help's Kathryn Stockett and Tate Taylor.

The Help

But,  when The Help was still a work in progress, the two friends were put in touch with producer Brunson Green, who soon became a comrade and later, the eventual producer of the film. Green and Taylor became friends when they worked together on the film A Time To Kill. It was during production of that film that the two became friends with Octavia Spencer, who had a bit part in the film, her first. Spencer went on to play the film's fiesty character of Minny.

Soon after filming wrapped, Taylor and Spencer moved to Los Angeles. Along with Green, who had already moved out there, the three made a short film titled Chicken Party, co-starring Allison Janney, who would later portray the pivotal role of Charlotte Phelan.

Black women historians dislike The Help>>

After visiting her friend in Los Angeles, Stockett began writing The Help, using Spencer as inspiration for the character of Minny. The book became a best-seller (after some 60 rejections) and Taylor bought the rights to craft it into a feature film.

Once production commenced, it took a year to cast the characters. Janney and Taylor were the first to sign on, along with Emma Stone andViola Davis and soon after, Bryce Dallas Howard. Everyone who is everyone in Hollywood was being considered for roles in the film. But Taylor was admant about who should be cast. He wanted an ensemble cast, with not one real "star" in the film, because the book's story was about a community of women.

Leslee Feldman, head of casting at DreamWorks, revealed to The Hollywood Reporter, "[about not casting big name stars] It would have been jarring, since there's not one clear-cut lead." Casting agents Kerry Barden and Paul Schnee also added, "It's complex because you are fitting so many pieces together."

During its first weekend release, the movie grossed nearly $36 million and is gaining early Emmy and Oscar buzz for its stars.

Check out our interviews with the cast:

Viola Davis enraged by The Help

The Help's Emma Stone: No divas on set

The Help's Bryce Dallas Howard: It's not only misguided; it's evil

Photo Credit: Dale Robinett/DreamWorks II Distribution Company, LLC

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