Hidden Figures is an American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about African American female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Space Race.
The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. The film also features Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, with Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell and Mahershala Ali in supporting roles.
Principal photography began in March 2016 in Atlanta and was wrapped up in May 2016. The film was released in the UK on 17 February 2017 by 20th Century Fox.
Hidden Figures received very received positive reviews from critics and was chosen by National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of the year. It was nominated for numerous awards, including three Oscars (Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Spencer) and two Golden Globes (Best Supporting Actress (Spencer) and Best Original Score). It won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
On 9 July 2015, it was announced that producer Donna Gigliotti had acquired Margot Lee Shetterly's nonfiction book Hidden Figures about a group of black female mathematicians who helped NASA win the Space Race.
Allison Schroeder wrote the script, which was developed by Gigliotti through Levantine Films. Schroeder grew up by Cape Canaveral, her grandparents worked at NASA, and she interned at NASA as a teenager and as a result saw the project as a perfect fit for her.
Levantine Films produced the film with Peter Chernin's Chernin Entertainment. Fox 2000 Pictures acquired the film rights, while Theodore Melfi signed on to direct it. After coming aboard, Melfi revised Schroeder's script, and, in particular, focused on balancing the home lives of the three protagonists with their careers at NASA.
Producers would be Chernin and Jenno Topping, along with Gigliotti and Melfi. In April 2016, Pharrell Williams came on board as a producer on the film. He also would write original songs and would handle the music department and soundtrack of the film with Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch.
Since the film's development was announced, various actresses were considered to play the black female roles, including Oprah Winfrey, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Taraji P. Henson. On 10 February 2016, Fox hired Henson to play the lead role of mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson.
On 17 February, Spencer was selected to play Dorothy Vaughan, one of the three lead mathematicians at NASA. On 1 March, Kevin Costner was cast in the film to play the head of the space program. Singer Janelle Monáe signed on to play the third lead mathematician, Mary Jackson. Later the same month, Kirsten Dunst, Glen Powell, and Mahershala Ali were cast in the film, Powell to play astronaut John Glenn, and Ali as Johnson's love interest, with Dunst for an unspecified role. On 1 April, Jim Parsons was cast in the film to play the head engineer of the Space Task Group at NASA, Paul Stafford.
photography began in March 2016, on the campus of Morehouse College in
Atlanta, Georgia. Filming also took place at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics
at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.
The film was released in the UK on 17 February 2017 by 20th Century Fox.
Hidden Figures received very positive reviews from critics. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 92% and the site's critical consensus reads, "In heartwarming, crowd-pleasing fashion, Hidden Figures celebrates overlooked – and crucial – contributions from a pivotal moment in American history." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 74 out of 100, indicating "generally favorable reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "A+" on an A+ to F scale, one of fewer than 60 films in the history of the service to receive such a score.
Simon Thompson of IGN gave the film a score of 9/10, saying, "Hidden Figures fills in an all too forgotten, or simply too widely unknown, blank in US history in a classy, engaging, entertaining and hugely fulfilling way. Superb performances across the board and a fascinating story alone make Hidden Figures a solid, an accomplished and deftly executed movie that entertains, engages and earns your time, money and attention." Ty Burr of The Boston Globe wrote, "the film’s made with more heart than art and more skill than subtlety, and it works primarily because of the women that it portrays and the actresses who portray them. Best of all, you come out of the movie knowing who Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughn and Mary Jackson are, and so do your daughters and sons."
Clayton Davis, of Awards Circuit gave the film 3.5 stars saying, "Precisely marketed as terrific adult entertainment .... Hidden Figures is a faithful and truly beautiful portrait of our country’s consistent gloss over the racial tensions that have divided and continue to plague the fabric our existence. Lavishly engaging from start to finish, Hidden Figures may be able to catch the most inopportune movie-goer off guard and cause them to fall for its undeniable and classic storytelling. The film is not to be missed."
In an interview, Katherine Johnson offered the following comment about the movie. "It was well-done. The three leading ladies did an excellent job portraying us."
Following the 2017 Lego Ideas Contest, Denmark-based toy maker The Lego Group announced it will manufacture a fan-designed 'Women of NASA' figurine set of five female scientists, engineers and astronauts, as based on real women who have worked for the NASA Space Agency. The new minifigures are to honour the life-stories of African-American NASA scientists as represented in the film. The five piece 'Women of NASA' set comprises mathematician Katherine Johnson, computer scientist Margaret Hamilton, astronaut, physicist and educator Sally Ride, astronomer Nancy Grace Roman and astronaut and physician Mae Jemison.
Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Goble Johnson, mathematician
• Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, mathematician and supervisor
• Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, who becomes an engineer
• Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, director of the Space Task Group
• Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell, supervisor
• Jim Parsons as Paul Stafford, head engineer in STG
• Glen Powell as John Glenn, astronaut
• Mahershala Ali as Jim Johnson, military officer who romances and eventually marries Katherine
• Donna Biscoe as Joylette Coleman, Katherine's mother, who helps care for her children
• Rhoda Griffis as White Librarian
• Maria Howell as Ms. Summer
• Aldis Hodge as Levi Jackson
• Paige Nicollette as Eunice Smith
After Hidden Figures was released in December 2016, certain charities, institutions and independent businesses who regard the film as relevant to the cause of improving youth awareness in education and careers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) field, have organized free screenings of the film in order to spread the message of the film's subject matter.
Also, the film's principal actors (Henson, Spencer, Monáe and Parsons), director (Melfi), producer/musical creator (Williams), and other non-profit outside groups have offered free screenings to Hidden Figures at several cinema locations around the world. Some of the screenings are open to all-comers, while others have been arranged to benefit girls, women and the underprivileged. The campaign began as an individual piece of activism by Spencer, and has now made a total of more than 1,500 seats available, free of charge, to poor individuals and families.
In February 2017, AMC Theatres and 21st Century Fox announced that free screenings of Hidden Figures would take place in celebration of Black History Month in up to 14 select U.S. cities (including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Miami), in order to build broader awareness of the film's true story of the African American women mathematicians who worked at NASA during the Space Race. 21st Century Fox and AMC Theatres have also invited schools, community groups and non-profit organizations to apply for additional special screenings to be held in their towns.
More recently, philanthropic non-profit outside groups and other local efforts by individuals have offered free screenings to Hidden Figures by using crowdfunding platforms on the Internet that allow people to raise money for free film screening events. Dozens of other GoFundMe free screening campaigns have appeared since the film's general release, all by people wanting to raise money to pay for students to see the film.