Gritty drama a "Precious" commodity in Hollywood

Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:01pm EDT
 
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By Todd Longwell

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Filmmaker Lee Daniels had modest aims when he brought his new drama, then called "Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire," to the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

He was just hoping to score a DVD deal with a company that could target black audiences.

But his representatives were convinced they could get big dollars from a top distributor.

As Daniels prepared to introduce his film at a screening, all the major buyers were still a mile down the road at the splashy premiere of "Brooklyn's Finest." His agent Charles King asked Daniels to stall.

"I was sweating bullets," Daniels says. "After 20 minutes, everybody that they felt needed to be in the room was in the room. I don't think (Weinstein Co. principal) Harvey Weinstein was there, but maybe some of his people were. The agents gave me the thumbs, and then we began."

The screening kick-started one of the most compelling stories of this awards season. When the end credits rolled nearly two hours later, Daniels was greeted with a tearful standing ovation.

"IT GOT NASTY"

Then came a flurry of negotiations, with Weinstein Co. believing it had purchased worldwide rights to the film. But days later, with Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry on board as executive producers, Lionsgate said it had bought the film for about $5 million. That touched off a bicoastal legal brawl still winding its way through the courts.   Continued...