LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) - Independent filmmaker Lee Daniels got a big push for his movie “Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire” when Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry signed on as executive producers after the film’s Sundance Film Festival premiere in 2009.
“Precious” went on to be nominated for several Academy Awards, including best picture and best director for Lee. At the Oscars in February, it took home awards for best adapted screenplay and best supporting actress for Mo‘Nique.
With some newfound notoriety, Daniels has now attached his own name to an independent film, “Prince of Broadway,” that he first saw as a juror at the Independent Spirit Awards in 2009.
The film opens in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles this Friday. It follows an illegal immigrant named Lucky who sells brand name knock-offs in New York City. His life changes when a woman hands over to him a toddler she insists is his.
Reuters talked to Daniels about the film and his career.
Q: Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry are big names that moved mountains for “Precious.” What can Lee Daniels do for “Prince of Broadway?”
A: “I learned from Oprah and Tyler that presenting helps. They rang the bell as loud as they could for me and people came to see my film. We’re only opening in three cities with ‘Prince of Broadway,’ so I’ll ring that bell as loud as I can from those three cities. I think people interested in the kind of work I do will be blown away by this filmmaker.”
Q: What was it about filmmaker Sean Baker that made you want to attach your name to his movie?
A: “His work stands for everything that I do. Every film I have done has been independent. Anyone who knows me and knows my work associates it with independent cinema. I‘m no Oprah or Tyler Perry, but in the independent world, my name means something.”
Q: What was it about ‘Prince of Broadway’ that got you excited when you first saw it?
A: “Being from New York myself, watching the film I saw the folks the way I see folks in New York City. It was a new voice.”
Q: Lucky’s life is turned upside down one day when a woman he barely knows hands him a baby and leaves it with him. In real-life, you adopted your niece and nephew when they were just babies themselves. Any parallels there?
A: “There was definitely a connection with the way Lucky’s kid was handed off to him and how I was blessed with mine.”
Q: “Prince of Broadway” is the first movie that bears your name since “Precious.” Are you working on anything right now?
A: “I‘m co-writing my first studio movie for Sony Pictures called ‘The Butler.’ It’s a true story about a butler who served six Presidents in the White House. I‘m also debating whether or not to direct (the independent film) ‘Selma.'”
Q: What’s to contemplate?
A: “Both of them are about civil rights. As a filmmaker, I can only do one civil rights story. I‘m weighing my options.”
Q: Were you disappointed that “Precious” didn’t win best picture or that you didn’t win best director?
A: “Yes. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn‘t. But I was really happy (director) Kathryn Bigelow won (for ‘The Hurt Locker.') If I didn’t win, I wanted her to win.”
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney