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Lee Daniels Talks Getting Back Into The Groove After 3-Year Drought

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by Tambay A. Obenson
May 22, 2012 11:06 AM
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As he notes himself in the interview, he’s certainly been stacking up the projects over the last couple of years, since Precious, and with each one, I've wondered when Lee Daniels was going to actually, finally get the chance to make one of them? Since the theatrical release of Precious, Daniels’ name has been attached to quite a few projects – Selma, Miss SaigonIcedAnna In The TropicsThe Butler, and more, including, most recently, The Paperboy, based on an award-winning novel of the same name, written by Pete Dexter - a film that's making its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival this week.

Glad he was finally able to get one off the ground. 

THR caught up with Daniels at Cannes, to talk about his near 3-year freeze, and, of course, the film that ended it.

A few items of interest I read in the interview; on his struggles in trying to get Selma made:

We got right to the altar, and the bride ran away. We had the money, but I needed more money. Looking at it in hindsight now, I should have figured out a way [to make Selma]. I think oftentimes filmmakers make that mistake. I know I did. You don’t realize the gift that you have making films. It’s so rare that you have the opportunity to do it. But it brought Paperboy into my lap. I had had the book, Pete’s book. I’d gotten it around the same time I’d gotten Precious, actually Push, by Sapphire. I enjoyed both of them very much. They are the types of books that are on my bed stand. When I got some money from investors, I had the choice and I decided to do Precious. After Precious, there were several movies that were floating around — Nights of Cabiria, Miss Saigon. Being courted by so many people because of the hype of Precious, you lose a sense of focus. But after the fairy dust settled and reality kicked back in, I became an unemployed director. I went back to what I knew, which was my passion for Paperboy.

If The Paperboy didn't even tually get off the ground when it did, Daniels would've found himself on my list of black directors (along with the likes of Antoine Fuqua, F. Gary Gray, and several others) who've been seemingly absent for 3+ years, even though their names have been attached to several different projects over that time period.

But it got made, and it's premiering. 

I especially like what he said about figuring out a way to make your film with the money you do have, instead of delaying production even further, looking for more money; of course it's not a steadfast rule. Each scenario is different. But it's still worth a mention. 

Also, realizing that he became "an unemployed director" after reality kicked back in, despite the fact that he'd been attached to several projects, is notable. Recalling my post on Antoine Fuqua's 16 projects announced in the last 3 year - none of them advancing - you read daily news items about a director being attached to this or that project, and we get excited if it's something of interest, and we tend to think that these directors are indeed *working* and collecting checks. But, as I've said before, a lot still has to happen before we can call the project a definite go. An announcement is just that; as we've seen over the years, annoucements are made, but projects never proceed, sit in limbo for years, are eventually buried, or just take a long time to package and finance.

As for what audiences should expect in The paperboy, Daniels says:

I think that it’s a thriller that studies sex and race and the coming of age of a boy to manhood. Pete Dexter adapted his own novel, something that novelists aren’t always comfortable doing.

He goes on to say that, after working on Selma for so long, he had "that race issue in the ’60s bubbling up in me, waiting to explode. And I took a lot of that and laced it throughout Paperboy, which added another element to the story."

I haven't read the novel, so I can't comment on how his infusing race matters into the story affects it. Interesting though, so we'll see.

You can read the full interview HERE.

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1 Comment

  • Adam Scott Thompson | May 23, 2012 8:42 AMReply

    Paralyzed by choices -- how very American.

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