Hidden Figures, Part 2: The Film

With regard to the film based on Hidden Figures, these points provided by IMBDatabase are of special interest to me:

o While John Glenn did specifically request that Katherine Johnson review all of the numbers for the Friendship 7 mission before he would agree to go through with it, he did so weeks before the mission actually took place, not as portrayed in the when the countdown to launch was nearing at Cape Canaveral.

o When Taraji P. Henson (above right) signed on for the lead role, she met with the real-life Katherine Johnson, who was 98 years old, to discuss the character she was about to portray. Henson learned that Johnson had graduated from high school at age 14 and from college at age 18, and was still as lucid as anyone years younger. After the film was screened for Johnson, she expressed her genuine approval of Henson’s portrayal, but wondered why anybody would want to make a film about her life.

o Paul Stafford (Jim Parsons) and Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst) are not based on real people. Instead, both characters are composites of different team members who worked at NASA, intended to represent the dismissive attitudes held by some of the white co-workers during this period.207 of 208 found this interesting

o The issue with the bathrooms was not something Katherine Johnson personally experienced. It was actually encountered by Mary Jackson instead.

o In fact, it was this incident, as a result of Jackson ranting to a colleague, which got her moved to the wind tunnel team. Johnson was initially unaware that the East Side bathrooms were even segregated, and used the unlabeled “whites-only” bathrooms for years before anyone complained. When she simply ignored the complaint, the issue was dropped completely.

o The actual working relationship between the engineers and women was not as hostile as it appears in the film. While there were clearly racial issues at play, the majority of the engineers were able to work with the computers with no issues.377 of 383 found this interesting | Share thisOne of the ways that Katherine experiences workplace discrimination is when her coworkers require her to use a separate coffee pot. Whenever the office’s coffee area is shown, the brand of coffee that they use, Chock Full o’Nuts, is also visible. The use of this brand in the context of segregation is historically relevant.

o In 1957, Chock Full o’Nuts was one of the first major New York corporations to hire a black executive as a corporate vice-president. The man they hired, retired baseball legend Jackie Robinson, had made history by being the first person to break the color barrier in professional baseball.

o Before presenting the award for Best Documentary Feature at The Oscars (2017), the film’s stars, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, introduced Henson’s real life counterpart, 98 year old Katherine Johnson, to the stage, where she received a standing ovation from the audience.

o On the day that the scene was filmed in which Paul Stafford is speaking to the NASA engineers in the Space Task Group office about needing to develop the math for re-entry, there was an extra face in the crowd. Mark Armstrong, son of Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong, had been invited by actor Ken Strunk to make a cameo appearance in the scene, and joined the other actors who were playing the NASA engineers.

The set used for Dorothy Vaughan’s house, where the ladies play cards and danced, is actually an historic house in Atlanta, where civil rights pioneers Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King met.

Colors were key to setting the mood of the film. “Cold” sets at NASA – where calculations took place – were filmed in sterile whites, grays, and silvers, in sharp contrast to the “warm” sets of Al Harrison’s office and the ladies’ homes.236 of 243 found this interesting | Share thisIn reality, John Glenn was much older at the time of the launch than depicted in the film. When the launch went ahead in January 1962, he was almost 41 years old, whereas the actor who portrays Glenn, Glen Powell, was 27 years old during production.

o At age 98, Katherine Johnson was the only survivor of the “Hidden Figures 3” to see her achievements depicted on film. In November 2015, President Barack Obama awarded her a Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work at NASA, and she was further honored the following year when a new $30 million, 40,000-square-foot NASA building was named the Katherine G Johnson Computational Research Facility.

o Katherine Johnson co-wrote, with T.H. Skopinski, the 1960 NASA Technical Note D-233, “Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position”, which can be seen on the NASA Technical Reports Server.

o Grissom’s capsule, the Liberty Bell 7, was eventually recovered from the ocean floor on July 20, 1999, the 30th anniversary of the first lunar landing (Apollo 11). It had sunk to a depth of approximately 16,000 ft (4,900 m). Over 50 Winged Liberty Head dimes (aka Mercury dimes) meant to be souvenirs of the flight were found inside.

o Screenwriter Allison Schroeder grew up close to Cape Canaveral. Her grandparents worked at NASA, and as a teenager, she interned at NASA herself, and therefore saw the film as an ideal fit for her.

o While the music for the film was being recorded, the number of African-American musicians was deliberately and consistently kept at 50%, meaning that half of the musicians who worked on the film were African American.

o Mahershala Ali and Janelle Monáe also appear together in Moonlight (2016). Both films were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture at The Oscars (2017), with Moonlight ultimately winning.

o This film was part of a recurring gaffe at the The 74th Golden Globe Awards (2017) when two presenters kept referring to the film as “Hidden Fences,” due to Fences (2016) also being nominated at the same ceremony. In fact, both films competed for the award for Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Octavia Spencer was nominated for her role in this film, while Viola Davis was nominated for her performance in Fences. Davis ultimately won the award.



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