September 5 note – I’ve received feedback that indicates I’ve been unclear and/or misleading about the book Hidden Figures (out September 6). The film based on the book is a fictionalized adaptation, but the book is non-fiction.
After posting last week about a potential film on the medical testing company Theranos and its CEO, I was reminded via Twitter (H/T @trekonomics) of a just-wrapped film that readers will find of interest. In what might pass for an abundance of riches, it’s not the only film coming soon that fits the bill.
Hidden Figures is a fictionalized treatment of the book of the same name written by Margot Lee Shetterly (and underwritten by the Sloan Foundation). Neither the book nor the film are released yet. The book is scheduled for a September release, and the film currently has a January release date in the U.S.
Both the film and the book focus on the story of African American women who worked as computers for the government at the Langley National Aeronautic Laboratory in Hampton, Virginia. The women served as human computers, making the calculations NASA needed during the Space Race. While the book features four women, the film is focused on three: Katherine Johnson (recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom), Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson. They are played by, respectively, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monae. Other actors in the film include Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Aldis Hodge, and Jim Parsons. The film is directed by Theodore Melfi, and the script is by Allison Schroeder.
Rosalind Franklin was an x-ray crystallographer considered by many as instrumental in the discovery of the structure of DNA. Her life was recently portrayed by Nicole Kidman on the stage in Photograph 51, and The Tracking Board is reporting (H/T The Mary Sue) that playwright Anna Ziegler will adapt her play for the screen, with Kidman reprising the role and Michael Grandage will direct (as he did for the play). Both Kidman and Grandage have other projects pending, so shooting on Photograph 51 will wait until both are available and the script is ready. The Tracking Board does note that another Franklin film (currently called Exposure) is in development, so there might be a race to get this story to screen first.
But before any of these films come out, Snowden, the Oliver Stone-directed film about the former NSA analyst turned fugitive whistleblower, will bow in September. I note this not so much for the film but for what the actor playing Snowden is doing to raise awareness. Joseph-Gordon Levitt plays Snowden, and he will be donating his acting salary for this film to produce another film, one that’s part of an ongoing project about technology and democracy through Levitt’s website/production company HITRECORD (H/T Esquire). This film was prompted by Snowden’s own contribution to the larger project.
As is customary with projects at HITRECORD, Levitt has solicited for contributions of graphical work to help illustrate what actual Snowden discusses in his video. Those people whose contributions are accepted will be paid. Levitt and HITRECORD are working with the American Civil Liberties Union on this project. The ACLU will receive the portion of Levitt’s acting fee that is not used to support the film.
More on each of these films as they near release.