Conversations With: Lee Daniels

Out director Lee Daniels claims Sundance's Grand Jury Prize for Push, the tale of one girl's struggle for survival in 1980s Harlem -- and one of the most moving portraits of a lesbian in black cinema.

BY Corey Scholibo

January 26 2009 1:00 AM ET

Push Cast x390 (getty) | Advocate.com 

I remember saying at the end, I live the most
privileged life ever. I think that is one of the most
interesting parts about the movie, to watch people
go through what she had to go through, it makes
the audience thankful for what they have.
And what’s cool about Precious is that
she’s OK ...

Yeah? And I mean her, like the person who’s
playing her, Gabourey "Gabby” Sidibe, because
she doesn’t take off a fat suit when she’s
getting off the set. When she gets off the set, she
has to live with that. I had so many prejudices,
personally, about someone ... I mean, here I am, gay,
black -- how dare I be fucking prejudiced against someone
that’s pitch-black? How dare I be fucking
prejudiced against someone that’s obese? Who
the fuck am I to be prejudiced? But I learned that I was.
And it was so fucking unsettling. It was like such an
educational experience to know that I had that
prejudice in me. That preconceived notion that she was
slovenly, she smelled. All these things that were not true.
That she was dumb. You know? And I learned that
she’s smarter than me. Like I would say, "Well,
I want your room tidy and clean because Precious ...
just because she’s black doesn’t mean she
can’t keep her room tidy ... I want her clothes
clean." She goes, "Lee, here’s where it’s
at. I can’t get my fat ass under that couch to clean.
So how do you think Precious is going to get her fat
ass under that couch to clean?" And I said, "Word,
bitch. OK, Got it.”

And are you finding distribution companies are
coming forward for this film?
They’re at me ... I don’t know. I
think that it crosses into black world, it’s
commercial, it’s a little bit of everything.
It’s going to be hard to find truth. And I said
this to Halle [Berry] when we were filming
Monster’s Ball, you know, every 10 years
we’re blessed if we are. And I think it all
came from being told I was nothing. I’ve always
got my bar and my standard is so high because I was told I
was going to be nothing. By my father, by my uncles…

The hardest part of that movie, more than anything
else, is watching her not have any self-esteem. You know
from that, nothing can come. How are you supposed
to survive that?
You don’t. That’s why I
specifically told my agents that I don’t want to
know what people really know about the film because if it
were negative, it would only reinforce a very fragile
sort of place ... what my dad told me, what my uncles
told me. When I was walking down the stairs in high
heels at five and he’s playing poker and I’m
in my mother’s high heels and they’re
going “click clack click clack,” and
he’s just like, “ahhhhhh.” I was
in my mother’s shoes coming down the stairs, and that
did not stop me two weeks later ... the ass-whooping I got
did not stop me, and I think that shit makes me more
of a man, because the bar is higher for me. I think
that’s the case with most gay men. We are
perfectionists.

Tags: film

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