Taraji P. Henson quick to push ‘Button’ on role
by Stephen Schaefer, Boston Herald
To say Taraji P. Henson’s happy with her role as Queenie, the African-American adoptive mother of Brad Pitt’s title character in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” is an understatement.
“Incredible! Amazing!” Henson exclaimed while on a press tour in Philadelphia to promote the film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s short story of a man who ages backward. The movie has gotten Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations for Best Picture.
It’s 1918 – and Queenie, who runs a home for the aged, discovers a grotesquely aged infant on the doorstep. Without hesitation, she takes him in. And as she raises the boy, he becomes younger and stronger.
Despite its segregated era, race is never an issue in “Button.”
“David Fincher didn’t want that,” Henson said of her director. “That’s why I love him. The first thing he said was, ‘It’s not this or that.’ That’s why it transcends race. This black woman raises this white kid – Queenie would do that to a stray cat, that’s how much love she has.”
“She’s such a nurturer and I’m a mom. My boy is 14,” Henson said. “Queenie’s ability to love unconditionally, that was the characteristic that stood out.”
For Henson, what also stood out during the filming in New Orleans was how therapeutic this story of love and loss proved to be.
“I’d lost my dad a year before and we began filming just before Thanksgiving (2007). That was the first Thanksgiving without him. Everything is for a reason, and the film says the only way to understand life is to live it and look at it backwards.”
Thinking of her own loss as she played Queenie from age 26 to 71, “helped me bring a deeper life to her. She’s surrounded by death because the elders come to her house to die. You can’t fear death, it’s going to happen. We’re all just spirits passing through and the film asks, ‘What kind of impact are you going to have in your life?’ ”
(“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” opens Christmas Day.)
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