BY Lisa Kennedy
October 08 2009 9:00 AM ET
Whether or not Andy was truly plotting, Daniels would indeed be in the spotlight in the coming weeks. A few days later the director would travel to the Toronto International Film Festival. Soon after, Precious would screen as the centerpiece of the New York Film Festival.
Daniels turns serious about Andy, whose identity and last name he prefers to keep to himself. “He’s my rock,” he says more than once. “I’m very blessed to have him in my life because I’m all over the place. Literally, figuratively. I’m in Istanbul. The distributor has me all around the world, going from Dubai to Deauville. Andy’s able to deal with my jet lag, my moodiness. He’s able to say one word: ‘Chill.’”
Daniels’s frequent-flier miles began stacking up in January when Precious, then titled Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire, won both the audience and grand jury prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. The title was changed when indie distributor Lionsgate bought the rights. Letting go of the beloved title was easier once Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry of the Madea comedies signed on as executive producers to champion the dark, triumphal film, Daniels says. “[Oprah] is so supportive,” he says. “I can’t begin to tell you how much I’m in love with that lady. That lady might turn me…” He stops himself. “She’s as real as a glass of ice water. She’s as real as they come.”
The film also stars Mariah Carey as Precious’s social worker, along with stand-up comic and actress Mo’Nique, who won the special jury prize for acting at Sundance (one of the film’s three awards there) for her portrayal of Precious’s brutal mother. The advice Daniels gave Mo’Nique on set, that her character “has dreams too,” is a hallmark of his work: Monsters are complex.
“If I made Precious thinking about the audience, I know I’d be too afraid making the film. I had to think about what I wanted to see -- I had to put aside any fears” of what viewers would think about the film. Daniels felt similarly about Monster’s Ball and The Woodsman. “When I went to talk to people about making those films, they looked at me like I was on crack. Hopefully Oprah and Tyler and others will help me reach people.”