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Posted at 10:30 PM ET, 07/19/2011

Tate Taylor gets by with “The Help” from his friend

Tate Taylor directs Emma Stone and Viola Davis in “The Help.” (Dale Robinette/Creamworks )

it reads like a feel-good novel: Tate Taylor, unknown actor and director, buys the rights to his best friend’s first book. Despite rejections by dozens of literary agents, it becomes a runaway bestseller — and now Taylor’s directing the big-budget movie adaptation.

The best friend: Kathryn Stockett, author of “The Help.” Her story of black maids in 1960s Mississippi has sold more than 2 million copies; Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek, Allison Janney, Cicely Tyson and Emma Stone star in the movie, which opens Aug. 10.

“She literally is my best buddy,” Taylor told us at Monday’s advance screening in Georgetown. The two met at age 5 in Jackson, Miss., and remained best friends as she pursued a writing career and he tried show business: He landed a few minor roles and directed “Pretty Ugly People,” which bombed.

Taylor at an advance screening of the movie Monday night in Georegtown. (Roxanne Roberts/The Washington Post)
His luck changed when Stockett showed him a draft of her manuscript. They both grew up with beloved black maids who remained close to them into their adult lives. Taylor quickly optioned the rights and started writing the screenplay; the book was published a year later by Penguin.

“We had no idea how it was going to be received,” he said. “As friends, we were, like, ‘You know what? Let’s get a story right from our home state. If the book does great, that will be gravy.’ And guess what? Gravy, gravy, gravy.”

By  |  10:30 PM ET, 07/19/2011

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