10 things you didn’t know about the movie
Ugly was a surprise hit in the summer of 2011 and cleaned up at the box office as well as awards season the following year. The film tells the story of women of color who served as servants to a southern white family in the 1960s.
The film mixes real life and fiction in an attempt to paint a portrait of the region at this time. Although the film was somewhat controversial, it was the starting point for the careers of several stars.
The world of film finance is complicated and it gets more and more complicated every year. Traditionally, films are funded by a single large studio, but in special cases additional funding may be raised elsewhere.
In the case of Ugly, as the BFI reports, the film was a three-way co-production between interests in the United States, India and the United Arab Emirates. Considering the fact that the film was a huge success, the financial gamble on the production seemed like a worthwhile investment.
Mix fiction and non-fiction
While the characters’ lives are, at most, loosely based on the lives of real people, many of the film’s historical events actually occurred. One of the most important moments in the novel and film is the assassination of Medgar Evers, a civil rights leader from Mississippi.
The assassination is basically used as the crux of the story and this is what prompts the characters to come forward and tell their stories. Which makes Ugly such an interesting story is the mixture of fiction and non-fiction in its narrative.
Taylor and Stockett Connection
Writer and director Tate Taylor had a special connection to the source material of Ugly that would lead him to eventually direct the film adaptation. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Taylor was a childhood friend of author Kathryn Stockett and actually took the rights to the book before it was even published.
The novel is drawn from the personal experience of Stockett growing up in Mississippi and has included details from her own life. Meanwhile, Tate’s connection to the material made him clearly qualified to direct the film.
Controversy and regret
Although the film was a huge success, all was not positive for Ugly at its output. Audiences may have gone in droves to see him, but many critics, especially from communities of color, have been unhappy with his portrayal of the story. Most notably, actress Viola Davis was quoted in The New York Times as expressing regret for her participation in the film when she said that she “had betrayed myself and my people.”
The crux of the controversy lies in the question of perspective. Because a majority of the production team was white, the authenticity of the story is called into question. Although the film was a big step forward for the careers of several performers, there is a regret to have participated.
Unconventional summer blockbuster
Summer is usually when Hollywood throws its biggest tentpole movies at audiences and is when they make the majority of their money for the year. However, Ugly arrived at the end of summer 2011 and dethroned several infallible hits. According to Box Office Mojo, Ugly grossed over $ 100 million in just twenty-one days.
This feat is impressive considering that this was only one of two films to accomplish this feat in August 2011. The original dramatic comedies are usually not massive blockbusters, but Ugly turned out to be one of the biggest hits of the year.
Box office movie marathon
Not only Ugly grossed a huge amount of money during its theatrical release, it also reigned supreme longer than any movie in years. As reported by Box Office Mojo, Ugly was the number one movie in the United States for twenty-five consecutive days, the longest streak of its kind since The sixth sensethirty-five consecutive days in 1999.
Longevity is important when it comes to box office success and Ugly proved that its big opening weekend was no accident. Traditionally, movies see a big drop after their first weekend, but Ugly saw very slight drops over its month in theaters.
Disney and dreamworks
Ugly production was a long time coming and it took some time for funding to be secured. However, production isn’t the only complicated part of the filmmaking process, and distribution presents some unique challenges as well. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film was funded and produced by Dreamworks but distributed by the Walt Disney Company.
Disney has several subsidiaries and Ugly has been distributed internationally through their Touchstone imprint which typically handles dramas. The connection is interesting because Disney and Dreamworks typically go head-to-head when it comes to the production of their respective animated feature films.
The real Mississippi
One of the requirements that author Kathryn Stockett had for the adaptation of her novel was that the production film be on location in Mississippi. The location of the film was so integral to the story that the author didn’t want a fake Hollywood to portray his original state. Therefore, as the local newspaper reports, many of the locations featured in the film were actual locations in the city.
An integral location, Brent’s Drugs was recreated for the movie and is a real store in Clarkesdale Mississippi. The authenticity of the location is what gives the film so much of its visual interest. There is something specific about the Deep South that couldn’t be recreated on a studio set.
Inspiration for Minny
Sometimes the appearance of an actor in a movie is a smart cast that helps elevate the project. However, sometimes an actor was intended for the role from the start and even participated in it. According to Entertainment Weekly, author Kathryn Stockett was inspired to write the character of Minny when she met Octavia Spencer.
Spencer would ultimately be chosen for the role once the film began pre-production, and she became one of the film’s most memorable characters. Having a role written specifically for an actor is usually the recipe for success and in the case of Ugly, it certainly was.
Good for Mississippi
The region of the Great South of the United States is often neglected by the Hollywood world and few films are produced there. Mississippi in particular is not known as a hotbed for film production, so Ugly was a great boon to the state, artistically speaking. According to the Associated Press, Ugly was Mississippi’s biggest production since the classic Coen brothers film O brother, where are you? from 1999.
By making the film on location, communities across the state had a chance to shine and interest in Mississippi increased. On top of that, the production has helped inject money into local communities by hiring locally for some of the team roles.
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