×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Taraji P. Henson, ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’

Family history part of preparation for performance

Before Taraji P. Henson went to work filming David Fincher’s “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” the actress says she took some time to visit with her family in North Carolina. It turned out to be a fortunate twist of fate for her preparations.

“My grandmother has eight children, including my mom,” Henson says. “There was a woman there to portray every age I was going to act in this film, so I just sat there and watched them all.”

In the film, Henson stars as Queenie, foster mother to Brad Pitt’s title character as he lives a life of adventure and spontaneity. Screenwriter Eric Roth says it was important for Queenie to represent home for Button and serve as an anchor for the piece as the film moves through decade after decade.

“I had no real particular image, but I know Taraji was probably more attractive than I imagined her to be,” Roth says, calling from Canada, where he’s taking some time to relax before the Oscar season frenzy. “She layered the thing and articulated the character better than I had written it. I thought the performance was pretty startling. The danger of the thing is going into some stereotypical character, and I thought she gave it a separateness and a dignity.”

Henson, who saw her cache rise a few years ago with a turn in “Hustle and Flow” and then “Talk to Me,” admits an awareness of those potential pitfalls. She says she didn’t want to portray Queenie as cliched or decrepit, but at the family gathering, she noticed her grandmother exercising her knee following recent knee-replacement surgery and worked that into her portrayal.

Henson chose Queenie’s arm as a point of physical focus and researched the aging process and how the spine shrinks, so she could develop variations on posture. She also added a dash of her grandmother’s “Don’t sweat the small stuff” credo for good measure.

“Queenie is that type of character,” Henson says. “She’s not a weak woman. She just goes with the hand she was dealt.”

As for working under Fincher’s tutelage, Henson says it was like finding a kindred spirit who mysteriously understood her process as a performer.

“For me it always starts with a trust for the director,” she explains. “I totally went into the project trusting him, and if you trust your director, it’s going to make you look that much more brilliant. Everything made sense. I even asked him if he acted before and he said never. He’s so well-rounded.”

Favorite film this year

“I haven’t been able to get out and see anything this year.”

Best advice

“To get out of the character’s way. To gag and bound Taraji because she has nothing to do with the character.”

Inspiration

“The fact that art creates life and the power of that.”

More Film

  • Soul Pixar

    Disney Unveils Pixar Movie 'Soul' With 2020 Summer Release Date

    Disney has unveiled “Soul” as an upcoming original Pixar film, which will debut on June 19, 2020. “Soul” will be the second original Pixar film next year after “Onward,” which opens on March 6. The studio announced Wednesday that it had dated the film. While plot details are scarce, Pixar did release the tagline for [...]

  • Riverdale Alladin Avengers Endgame

    'Avengers: Endgame,' 'Riverdale,' 'Aladdin' Top 2019 Teen Choice Award Nominations

    The nominations for the 2019 Teen Choice Awards have been revealed, and voting has opened for the top movies, TV shows and music that has dominated the last year. “Avengers: Endgame” and “Aladdin” are the top contenders in the movie category with nine and five nods, respectively. In TV, “Riverdale,” “The Flash” and “Shadowhunters” each [...]

  • 'Toy Story 4' Box Office: Pixar

    Box Office: 'Toy Story 4' Building to $140 Million-Plus Debut

    After a lackluster few weeks at movie theaters, it’s Woody and Buzz Lightyear to the rescue. The dynamic duo is returning to multiplexes for Disney and Pixar’s “Toy Story 4.” The fourth installment in the CGI series is expected to earn north of $140 million when it opens in 4,500 theaters across North America. If [...]

  • Yu Dong, Andrew Lau, Han Han,

    Shanghai Party: Red Carpet Rolled out at Bona Film Group 20th Anniversary Event

    No deal announcements. No talk of the Chinese film industry’s ongoing winter of discontent. Instead the parade of talent on stage Wednesday night at Shanghai’s Wanda Reign hotel put their troubles aside for a moment and celebrated the 20th anniversary of producer-distributor-exhibition company Bona Film Group. At regular intervals, Bona’s founder and chairman Yu Dong [...]

  • Critics Groups Form Coalition For Diversity

    Film and TV Critics Announce Coalition to Increase Diversity in Entertainment Journalism (EXCLUSIVE)

    A coalition of film and television critics associations are teaming up help foster greater diversity in entertainment journalism. The new Critics Groups for Equality in Media (CGEM) is comprised of the African American Film Critics Association (AAFCA), the Features Forum of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), GALECA: The Society of LGBTQ Entertainment Critics, the [...]

  • Leonardo DiCaprio Martin Scorsese

    Paramount Buys Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio's Crime Thriller 'Killers of the Flower Moon'

    Paramount will finance and distribute the Martin Scorsese-Leonardo DiCaprio murder mystery movie, “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Paramount chief Jim Gianopolous announced the deal Wednesday at the studio’s CineEurope presentation in Barcelona. Scorsese will direct and DiCaprio is attached to star in the adaptation of David Grann’s non-fiction book. Eric Roth is writing the screenplay. [...]

  • Franco Zeffirelli Remembered

    Franco Zeffirelli: An Artist and a Paradox

    When popular artists pass on, it can often be a surprise to learn just how old they were. But the news of Franco Zeffirelli’s death, at 96, inspired a major double take. The extravagant Italian maestro of theater, opera and film lived to a vibrant old age. Yet for many of us, the name Zeffirelli [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content