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Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder, based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine G. Johnson, the African-American mathematician who participated in calculating flight trajectories for Project Mercury and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon. The film also features Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, colleagues of Johnson at NASA. Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Glen Powell and Mahershala Ali also have roles.
Hidden Figures was released on December 25, 2016 by 20th Century Fox. It received positive reviews from critics and has grossed $32 million. It was chosen by National Board of Review as one of the top ten films of 2016.
The film recounts the story of three African-American women who worked in professional positions at NASA and helped the United States advance during the Space Race. Mathematician Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, worked in the segregated West Area Computers division of Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Using these calculations, NASA supported John Glenn in becoming the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of Earth.
Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, mathematician
Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan, mathematician
Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson, engineer
Kevin Costner as Al Harrison, director of the Space Task Group
Kirsten Dunst as Vivian Mitchell
Jim Parsons as Paul Stafford
Glen Powell as John Glenn
Mahershala Ali as Jim Johnson
Donna Biscoe as Joylette Coleman, Katherine's mother
Rhoda Griffis as White Librarian
Maria Howell as Ms. Summer on folks
Aldis Hodge as Levi Jackson
Paige Nicollette as Eunice Smith
Gary Weeks as Reporter of Press Conference
Saniyya Sidney as Constance Johnson
Kimberly Quinn as Ruth
Olek Krupa as Karl Zielinski
On July 9, 2015, it was announced that producer Donna Gigliotti acquired Margot Lee Shetterly's nonfiction book Hidden Figures about a group of black female mathematicians who helped NASA win the Space Race by providing mathematical computations for the launch of John Glenn and his fellow astronauts into space. Allison Schroeder wrote the script, which was developed by Gigliotti through Levantine Films. That firm produced the film along with Peter Chernin's Chernin Entertainment. Fox 2000 Pictures acquired the film rights, while Theodore Melfi signed on to direct it. 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 February 10, 2016, Fox hired Henson to play the lead role of mathematician Katherine Johnson, while producers on the film would be Chernin and Jenno Topping, along with Gigliotti and Melfi. On February 17, Spencer was selected to play Dorothy Vaughan, one of the three lead mathematicians at NASA. On March 1, 2016, Kevin Costner was cast in the film to play the head of the space program, and following him, 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 the other two for unspecified roles. Principal photography began in March 2016. On April 1, 2016, Jim Parsons was cast in the film to play the head engineer at the Space Task Group at NASA, Paul Stafford. 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.
Principal photography on the film began in early March 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia. Filming also took place at Lockheed Martin Aeronautics at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.
President Obama greeting Kevin Costner, Octavia Spencer, and Taraji P. Henson on December 15, 2016
The film had a limited release starting on December 25, 2016, before a wide release on January 6, 2017.
During its limited release in 25 theaters from December 25, 2016 to January 5, 2017, the film grossed $3 million. In North America, Hidden Figures had its expansion alongside Underworld: Blood Wars and the wide releases of Lion and A Monster Calls, and was expected to gross around $20 million from 2,471 theaters in its opening weekend, with the studio projecting a more conservative $15–17 million debut. It made $1.2 million from Thursday night previews and $7.6 million on its first day. Initially, projections had the film grossing $21.8 million in its opening weekend, finishing second behind Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($22 million). However final figures the following day revealed the film tallied a weekend total of $22.8 million, beating out Rogue One's $21.9 million.
Hidden Figures received positive reviews from critics. On review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 93% based on 138 reviews, with a weighted average score of 7.7/10. 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, based on reviews from 43 critics, 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.