A Minute With: Director Lee Daniels on his "Precious"

Thu Nov 26, 2009 3:50pm EST
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire," directed by Lee Daniels, is generating a large amount of Oscar buzz this season and getting a push from executive producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.

Prior to this film, Daniels was best known for producing "Monster's Ball" in which he cast Halle Berry in the role of a downtrodden, small town waitress that saw her make history when she became the first black woman to win a best actress Oscar.

Similarly, "Precious" is earning plaudits for performances by Mariah Carey, Mo'Nique, and newcomer Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe in the central role of an obese, abused teenager.

Daniels talked with Reuters about making the movie, its strong reception at the Sundance, Cannes and Toronto film festivals throughout 2009, and Oscar odds.

Q: Are you surprised at the success of "Precious," so far.

A: "Honest to God, I originally thought this movie was going straight to DVD. I did not make it for mainstream America. It wasn't until I was at Sundance and this Chinese lady in her 60s started crying in my arms outside a (convenience store) did I realize this was a universal story. That was an epiphany."

Q: What about being in the international arena at Cannes?

A: "I was walking the red carpet and looked over my shoulder and there was Gabby, posing, surrounded by photographers. It was like an extended version of that first fantasy sequence in the movie. At that point, I felt the movie was not just a movie anymore. It was a life force. I knew that this entire process had changed this girls' life and I was a part of it."   Continued...

<p>Director Lee Daniels poses at the AFI Fest 2009 gala screening of his new film "Precious: Based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" in Hollywood November 1, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser</p>