You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Director Theodore Melfi on Why He Dropped ‘Spider-Man’ to Board ‘Hidden Figures’

NASA scientists landed in Hollywood on Wednesday evening for a special panel held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Science and Technology Council.

The panel, titled “Hidden Figures/ Modern Figures: A Journey of Breakthroughs in Cinema and Space Travel,” featured the filmmakers behind the 2016 film “Hidden Figures” as well as NASA scientists, who joined to discuss math, science, and diversity in the context of the cinematic exploration of space.

During the discussion with the filmmakers, the film’s director and producer Theodore Melfi explained how he withdrew being in consideration for the 2017 iteration of “Spider-Man” to get on board with “Hidden Figures.” Days after reading the script, the concept of which he called “the most incredible thing he’d ever heard,” Melfi made a no-brainer decision: “I told them to get me out of ‘Spider-Man.'”

On tackling racism in the film, Melfi explained that he wanted to deliver a fresh perspective on “the little things” that cinema had not previously touched on thoroughly. “We’ve all seen so many movies that surround racism, or deal with slavery,” he said. “But I had never seen a movie where it dealt with the everyday slights of racism, the things that still happen today.”

Following the conversation with the filmmakers, three “modern figures” took the stage: Tracy Drain, Powtawche Valerino, and Jennifer Trosper; key leaders at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) who shared highlights of their work, and how they’ve drawn inspiration from the female pioneers portrayed in the film.

Also in attendance at the panel were “Hidden Figures” editor Peter Teschner, cinematographer Mandy Walker, and NASA chief historian Dr. Bill Barry. The panel was moderated by former Deluxe Entertainment executive Beverly J. Wood.

(Pictured: Tracy Drain and Theodore Melfi.)

More Scene

  • CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 19: Robert

    Robert Pattinson Helps HFPA Donate $500,000 to Refugee Organization at Cannes Event

    The Hollywood Foreign Press Association proved in Cannes Sunday night that the Golden Globes aren’t the only festive bash it can pull off each year. At the glamorous Nikki Beach party held in association with Participant Media, the HFPA donated $500,000 to international aid organization Help Refugees. Co-hosts Robert Pattinson and Helen Mirren along with Quentin [...]

  • Mj Rodriguez, Alexis Martin Woodall, Ryan

    Peabody Winners Talk Empowered Women and Social Justice Challenges on Red Carpet

    The theme on the red carpet at the 78th annual Peabody Awards? Empowering women. On Saturday, Peabody winners gathered at Cipriani Wall Street, and one of the hot topics on everyone’s mind was the wave of female empowerment spreading across the industry. From Peabody’s Career Achievement Award recipient Rita Moreno to shows like ‘Killing Eve’ [...]


    Cannes: Robert Pattinson, Shailene Woodley Attend Starry Vanity Fair Party

    It’s true what they say about Batman being a loner. On Saturday night, Robert Pattinson made his first public appearance since being cast as the new Dark Knight at this year’s Vanity Fair Party at the Cannes Film Festival. But while all the other A-list guests mingled and worked the crowd at the restaurant of [...]

  • Taron Egerton Cannes Film Festival 2019

    Taron Egerton Addresses ‘Rocketman’ Comparisons to ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’ Takes Subtle Jab at Bryan Singer

    Taron Egerton says that he’s flattered by comparisons between his Elton John musical “Rocketman” and “Bohemian Rhapsody,” last year’s smash hit about Queen frontman Freddie Mercury. “I’m proud that we’re mentioned in the same breath,” says Egerton, who plays John in the upcoming “Rocketman,” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival to a five-minute standing [...]

  • Ethan Hawke, Bobby Cannavale and Griffin

    BAM Gala Marks Leadership Change, Celebrates Brooklyn as 'Cultural Center of New York'

    Wednesday’s annual gala celebrating the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) served as a poignant moment of transition for the New York stalwart of contemporary performance. As long-time artistic director Joe Melillo, who along with Harvey Lichtenstein transformed BAM into a vanguard of progressive art, prepares to pass the torch to new leadership, gathered patrons and [...]

  • Dua Lipa Tom Jones

    Dua Lipa and Tom Jones to Perform at amfAR's Cannes Gala (EXCLUSIVE)

    Variety‘s Marc Malkin is on the scene at the Cannes Film Festival. Get the scoop on all the news, parties and more straight from the Croisette below. AmfAR’s upcoming Cannes gala is shaping up quite nicely. Sources tell Variety that the evening will feature performances by Dua Lipa and Tom Jones. And they’re not the only [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content