Oscar nominees revel in newfound glory

Wed Feb 17, 2010 4:48am EST
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By Zorianna Kit

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Not long ago, Lee Daniels received a phone call out of left field: George Lucas had seen his film "Precious" and wanted the director to come to his Skywalker Ranch for a visit. Daniels flew up north, had lunch with Lucas and even spent the night in one of his cottages.

"I was nervous and intimidated at first," recalls Daniels, who brought along his leading lady, Gabourey Sidibe. "Then we just kicked back and talked about life and about how the film affected him and his girlfriend. We also talked how sound can help me on my next movie, because I have limited funds. It was a really chill conversation."

Daniels says he now has a new friend whom "I can feel free to call for further advice."

Having Lucas as a mentor is just one of the doors that have opened for Daniels as a result of "Precious." And he's not alone: For many of this year's Oscar nominees, the success of their films has resulted in unimaginable job offers, higher paychecks, more respect within the industry and incoming phone calls from Hollywood power players.

Daniels, who is nominated in two categories -- best picture and best director -- says he's been offered up to $2.5 million to direct everything from a Western to a musical. That's a far cry from the roughly $600,000 he received for "Precious," which he also produced.

Thanks to the film, he's now in discussions with Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson and Robert De Niro on different projects, while working on his next movie, "Selma," a civil rights movement drama for Pathe Films and an untitled pilot which he's directing and executive producing for HBO, about a black millionaire and his dysfunctional family in Philadelphia.

"Before, I complained that I would only get considered for a specific type of film, but now they're all over the place," he says. "It's liberating to be looked at as filmmaker, not an 'African-American' filmmaker. That's career-changing for me."

The unpredictable nature of the business has meant best actor nominee Jeremy Renner has had a side job for the past eight years: He and business partner Kristoffer Winters develop property in Los Angeles, renovating and then selling the homes.   Continued...

<p>Oscar statues lie under plastic on the red carpet during preparations for the 81st Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 21, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>