'Precious' Makes a 'Surreal' Premiere in Hollywood
, The Associated Press
The cast and crew of "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by
Sapphire" continued their unexpected journey from a scrappy little
screening 10 months ago at the Sundance Film Festival to a star-studded gala at
the legendary Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
"I'm speechless," said director Lee Daniels at an event hosted by the
American Film Institute on Sunday. "I'm humbled and speechless. That's the
best way to describe it. I just can't... I wish I had the words. Dreamlike?
Sort of surreal."
The dark urban drama, which opens in U.S. cinemas on Friday, follows
Clareece "Precious" Jones, an overweight, illiterate and abused
Harlem teen who is pregnant with her second child and invited to enroll in an
alternative school in hopes that her life will head in a new direction.
While at Sundance, where the -million film took top honors, Daniels got a
call from Oprah Winfrey, who ultimately joined fellow entertainment mogul Tyler
Perry in serving as after-the-fact executive producers.
Shortly thereafter, Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, who marks her film
debut in the title role, had an audience with Winfrey.
"Unfortunately, I forgot everything about it," Sidibe recalled.
"It's so weird, because she's such a big deal to me, that when she speaks,
I don't hear anything. It's like it's so weird. It's like hysterical blindness
in a way. All I can remember is her saying my name over and over, and that
can't be right."
"Precious" has earned strong critical notices for two unlikely
recipients: Mariah Carey and Mo'Nique.
Mo'Nique, the stand-up comic, talk-show diva and comic-actor, plays
Clareece's monstrous, abusive mother. "I got a phone call from Mr.
Daniels, and he said, 'I've got something that might mess up your career.' I
said, 'Sign me up,'" she said.
Carey has a role as social worker â€” a small part, but one the music
superstar views as a milestone in her acting career. "I mean I had one
milestone that almost had me under the stone," she laughed, referring to
the 2001 bomb "Glitter."
"I didn't realize that you really have to be selective with the people
that you work with and you have to have that support system and you have to
work with people that you feel are geniuses and Lee Daniels is a genius in my
book, so I'm grateful."
Other gala attendees Sunday included Winfrey and Perry, who posed for
photographers but didn't speak to press. Also present were novelist Sapphire,
"Precious" costars Paula Patton (with musician husband Robin Thicke)
and Sherri Shepherd, as well as Carey's musician husband Nick Cannon and Mary
J. Blige, who co-wrote one of the film's original songs. Like the film, it's an
Oscar shoo-in, according to some key award-season pundits â€” all of whom
director Daniels is trying to ignore.
"My way of dealing with (Oscar buzz) is not to embrace it," he
explained. "I did the movie after I thought it was (only) going to DVD.
Now I'm here on the freakin' red carpet talking to ya'll and it's like, that,
that is the win. Oprah Winfrey is like behind the movie. I mean, come on. I'm
gonna be able to tell my kids that forever.â€