If "The Help" manages to raise the Hollywood profile of Viola Davis, it couldn't happen to a more deserving actor.
"THe Help" made a healthy $26 million over the weekend, and is holding up well in the weekday tallies. How good is that number? It beat the August 2010 opening of "Eat Pray Love," another book adaptation, anchored by established star Julia Roberts.
"The Help" is an ensemble piece, but it's also very much Davis' movie. Hers is the performance that's come out of the pack with awards-season buzz. Nothing new for Davis, nominated for "Doubt," and a Tony winner for "King Hedley." What's new is holding the key role in a box-office break-out.
When Davis stopped here to promote the movie, I asked her if Hollywood validation is something she'd sought after establishing herself on Broadway i the 1990s.
"Not at all. I never made any kind of conscious decision to move from theater to film. I always just followed the work," she said.
"I went to L.A. to do a movie with Courteney Cox. 'The Shrink Is In' Don't look that one up!" she said, with a laugh. She had a few auditions, also a a car accident, and decided she hated the city and the industry.
"I thought, I will never come back to L.A. It' a hell hole. Then I got a job on 'City of Angels", I met my husband on the set. I'm in L.A. because I got married to a beautiful man, his family is in Los Angeles, and for some reason as soon I got set up there, I started to get alot of work."
Her personal story has uncanny echoes of the one Tom Hanks told here recently when he dropped in to promore "Larry Crowne" -- being at a low point in his career, taking a job on the comedy "Volunteers," meeting now-wife Rita Wilson.
Hanks and Davis, by coincidence, co-star in "Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close," currently in post-production. Davis also has the lead in "Steel Town," shooting now, playing a woman trying to start a charter school.