Friday, June 21, 2024

“The Help” Star Viola Davis on Competing with Meryl Streep and Beating Up Co-Star


Considering how serious “The Help” really is, it’s nice to see the Oscar buzzed actresses from it have a sense of humor. At a lunch/screening on Friday for the terrific Disney film, I asked stars Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer how they dealt with co-star Bryce Dallas Howard off camera. After all, Howard plays a nasty, racist socialite who causes a lot of misery for the local maids. “We just took Bryce out back and gave her a beating,” laughed Davis. She and Spencer held forth at the lunch, at Desmond’s on East 60th St., with a room full of admirers.

“Bryce is like the sweetest person. When we met her, I thought, how’s that going to work?” Davis said. “Then the cameras rolled and she went right into the character.” Spencer talked me about her relationship with co-star Jessica Chastain. “We’ve become great friends. I’m having dinner with her in LA right before Christmas. That’s the way it was from the beginning.” Davis is a cinch for a Best Actress nod, while Spencer and Howard should be locks in Best Supporting Actress. (Chastain will be covered in that category for “The Tree of Life.”)

Meanwhile, Davis told me to send a message to “Iron Lady” star Meryl Streep, with whom she will likely be in the Best Actress race. “You tell Meryl Streep it’s not about competition,” she said, with great gravity. Remember, the two had quite an on screen showdown in “Doubt.”

“I mean, she’s Meryl Streep. She is amazing. I’m in awe of her.”

Got that, Meryl?

As for Octavia Spencer, her next film is Diablo Cody‘s directing debut. Like the upcoming “Young Adult,” which Cody also wrote, “it’s not a lot of laughs,” says Spencer. “But we’ll try and get a few in.”

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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