Even a Hitmaker Like Chris Columbus Had to Fight For “The Help”

Even a proven Hollywood writer/producer/director can't always get an easy green light.

Chris Columbus has been in the DNA of some of the biggest blockbusters of the past 30 years, as the screenwriter of “Gremlins” and “The Goonies,” the director of “Home Alone,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and the first two “Harry Potter” films. But even he had to push against the reluctant Hollywood powers  to bring the best-selling but racially frank novel “The Help” to the big screen, helmed by a relative newcomer.

PopcornBiz lets Columbus tell the tale in his own words:

“Tate Taylor and I have known each other for about six years, and I've been a big supporter of his and his work. He'd done a short film that I loved and then he did an independent feature that they gave him quote for the DVD case. Then a couple of years ago he brought the galleys of this book into my office and said, 'When I'm going to do my 'Hollywood picture,' this is what I'd like to do. The author is my best friend and she said she'd like me to direct the movie.' He told me a little about it, and my wife read the book that weekend and said, 'You've got to look at this. This is unbelievable.' I read the book on a Monday – and this was before it was published –called my production company and said 'We should support this guy and make this movie.'

“Subsequently, Tate did a fantastic screenplay, and then we took it out, shopped the package around town and the book was just starting to gain some momentum on the New York Times best-seller list. And a lot of studios turned us down. They didn't want to chance on it whether it was they didn't want to take a chance on this particular kind of material or in their eyes basically a first time director. They were a little nervous and said no.

“Fortunately, Steven Spielberg and Stacy Snider at DreamWorks loved the book, loved Tate's version of the script and felt that if I was going to support him as a director that they would support Tate as a director. And if I would be on the set during the shoot and be a very active producer, they would make the movie. I agreed to do that. I didn't have anything to direct and I really, really fell in love with the material, and so we all went to Mississippi last summer and made the movie. At the same time the book continued to stay on the New York Times bestseller list and never leave.

“I think that probably a couple of places that decided not to make the movie probably are regretting it."

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