"I like her numbers," astronaut John Glenn (Glen Powell) announces after witnessing unheralded NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) crack a previously unsolvable equation. With luck, audiences will echo Glenn's sentiments when 20th Century Fox unveils the complete cut of Hidden Figures, an inspirational and patriotic drama that the studio just teased at the Toronto International Film Festival.
We were lucky enough to attend the exclusive footage presentation for Hidden Figures, which was followed by a Q-and-A session with an extremely emotional cast. As you can see in the above photograph, Henson -- who was seeing the footage for the first time -- had to wipe away tears because the emotions contained in the nearly 20 minutes of footage shown. Henson told the crowd:
This [story] is so important. Just, the timing of it. ... It's overwhelming.
Explaining that she needed "a departure from Cookie," her over-the-top Empire character, Taraji P. Henson plays actual NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who was part of the elite team that helped launch John Glenn on his primary orbit around our planet and, more important, bring him back home. As part of the footage shown, we were introduced to the three headstrong, intelligent and talented women at the heart of Ted Melfi's historical drama: Johnson; division supervisor Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer); and aerospace engineer Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). They are big personalities, who made huge contributions to our space program during the race our country held with Russian at the time of the Cold War.
The footage shows off an historical drama that's smart, patriotic, motivational and inspirational -- though, to be honest, it's hard to judge the outcome on such a small sampling. But the scenes we watched were entertaining, backed by new music by producer Pharrell, and the cast was genuinely overwhelmed by the way the scenes played. Pharrell told us:
I'm happy to even be a dot in the story that these women are telling.
While Janelle Monae praised the work of her female co-stars, and talked about how proud she was -- as a woman, and as an American -- to be part of the telling of this generally unknown sliver of history. The women voiced displeasure, numerous times, that they themselves didn't know the stories of these women. Henson said had she known about Katherine Johnson growing up, it might have inspired her to be a rocket scientist.
Henson ended the presentation with a welcome message of hope, which she says is integral to the work they did on Hidden Figures. She says that the movie demands that people put aside their differences and work together to achieve common goals. Based on what we saw, Fox may have a massive crowd-pleaser on its hands when Hidden Figures opens on December 25... and an awards contender, if the chips fall the right way.
For more photos from the event, click on to the next page.