Monday, October 12, 2009

"Precious" director Lee Daniels & Paula Patton @ CFAF; Daniels: “I'm a resiliant MF!”

Director Lee Daniels and actress Paula Patton spoke Friday night at the screening of Daniel's film “Precious,” part of the inaugural Carmel Film and Art Festival. The screening was held at Golden State Theatre in Monterey.

Daniels, whose previous credits include “Monster's Ball” and “The Woodsman,” led most of the discussion, with Patton providing some thoughts and the pair sharing a couple of emotional moments on stage together.

Really, it was Daniels show. He proved himself a determined, fiercely heartfelt artist with a clear vision and work ethic. “Precious” is a brutal, entertaining, original portrait of a world no one has been brave enough to bring to the screen until now.

A partial transcript of the discussion is posted below (with more after the jump):

On casting Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey:

Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey are both friends of mine. (Daniels said Kravitz is godfather to one of his children). Me and Lenny are planning on working on something pretty soon. I felt this wasn an opportunity for him to see how I was on set.

On casting Mariah Carey:

Mariah Carey is also a great friend. I offered the role to Helen Mirren, but she got a real job that payed. A few hours after that, Mariah Carey called. I said to myself "If I pull this off, it would be a lot more interesting and unpredictable.

With Mariah, she trusts me. If you trust someone and I trusted her, I said this iswhat I need (to play the character wearing no make-up). She really came in with a gusto.

On casting On casting Gabourney “Gabby” Sidibe in the title role...

She was found in Harlem. We had auditioned, I stopped counting after 400, but we auditioned for the role and she came and auditioned, and she was Harlem.

Paula Patton: Gabby is a prodigy. I called her the young Jodie Foster on the set.

She's really more like the the girl in the fantasy scenes than Precious. We would be in the make-up trailer between takes and she would talk in a more high-pitched voice, her regular voice is more high-pitched, and talk like “Have you seen ‘The Hills?’

I think actors can work their whole life and not come up with this (quality of) performance.

On attacking taboo subjects like rape, abuse and incest in his films:

The films I do are not for my family. I'm from the ghetto. They don't watch hard films. My mom said to me once “Why don't you do films like Tyler Perry?”

I learned it is a universal story, by simply telling the truth. Everyone is precious.

And, I have Tyler Perry on the film as a producer so I know my mother will see it (laughs)”

On resilience in his female characters:

My earliest memory was my mother and me... my father (who was physically abusive) put us both in a trash can. I remember both of us sitting in the trash can, and I was thinking “I don't care about me. I only care about what happens to my mother.”
I can't stand to see a woman touch or abused in any way. So I heal every time I do a movie.

On casting Mo'Nique:

Mo had worked with me on “Shadowboxer.” I like working with friends.

Paula Patton on working with Lee Daniels:

It was the most artistic, creative experience I've had on a film. It was the most creative work I've ever done. Lee Daniels is a genius and I'm very blessed (the pair then shared a long, emotional hug).

Lee Daniels: I didn't mean to take it there... especially in front of all these white people (laughs).

On the film's distribution:

It will start small, in a couple of cities, and by the second or third week it will be everywhere.

On screening at the Cannes film festival:

It's not just a movie to me... When we did Cannes and walked down the red carpet, and I saw Gabby walking the red carpet, it was one of the highlights of my life. It was art imitating the movie. She represents all of us. Everybody is precious.

Daniels on whether he wavered on telling the story:

I never, ever wavered. I did ‘Monsters Ball’ and noone said it could be done. They laughed me out of Hollywood. It won an Academy Award.
I'm used to being laughed at. My dad did it. Hollywood has done it. I am a resiliant motherfucker!

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