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Oscar Watch: Precious Star Mo'Nique Plays Hard to Get

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood October 27, 2009 at 10:01AM

Can a film win an Oscar without an all-out campaign? Three movies face an uncertain Oscar future because they may not deliver a full-court press.
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Thompson on Hollywood

Can a film win an Oscar without an all-out campaign? Three movies face an uncertain Oscar future because they may not deliver a full-court press.

Eyebrows were raised on reports that Mo'Nique wasn't cooperating with Lionsgate's Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire promo campaign. The comic actress breaks out in an unexpectedly searing film performance as a monstrous mom that under ordinary circumstances would be a slam dunk for a nomination. She won a Sundance jury prize at Sundance for her performance.

Lionsgate, after a long string of film fests, will roll the film out starting November 6, broadening each weekend through December.

But since Sundance--when she was helping to get the movie sold--Mo'Nique's been playing hard to get. She's not a publicity hound. According to people who have worked with her and even Mo'Nique herself, it's all about the money. When she does PR appearances, she likes to get paid. She didn't play ball at fests Cannes, Toronto and New York, partly because she's been otherwise engaged. On October 5 Mo'Nique debuted BET's "The Mo'Nique Show" in Atlanta (where she's raising twins). In promoting her TV show, she did double duty on the talk shows, also talking Precious.

Doesn't she want an Oscar? Well, maybe. It looks like Lionsgate has finally come to terms with the actress. The actress did cooperate with interviews and photo shoots for the NYT and W. "She's been great, she has a lot of things on her agenda," says one Lionsgate spokeswoman who denies that any payments are involved. "She's a career-driven, family-minded, strong woman who is spread thin." (Like most stars, she gets support in the form of first-class airfare, hair and makeup stylists, drivers, nannies etc.)

In theory, though, Mo'Nique should be able to grab that Oscar nom without stepping a foot outside her house.

But the reality is, landing a nomination takes work. Besides her Atlanta-based manager, Mo'Nique now boasts a new L.A. press agent. (We'll see how long the relationship lasts.) The actress will fly in from Atlanta for the LA premiere at AFI Fest, where she'll do select press and multiple TV bookings. (The AFI is considered the premiere she has contracted to show up for. Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry will be back.)

Will the SAG and Academy actors give her a shot if she doesn't work the guild Q & As? I'd like to think they would. In this case, the movie is strong enough to be a must-see, and is already starting to rack up award circuit wins. This is one of those home-grown organic films that comes from a genuine place of pain, from the source novel Push by Sapphire, director Lee Daniels and the actresses Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique herself. Can anyone doubt that she tapped into something nasty in her final blowout scene, the one that could land her an Oscar nomination?

Another question mark is Australian actress Abbie Cornish, who will be even less visible in support of her well-reviewed turn in Jane Campion's Bright Star. That's because Cornish accepted a role in Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch, which is currently filming. While she's doing a day of press and PAs in Los Angeles this month, she is not going to be available to push herself the way Bright Star distributor Bob Berney would like. He knows what it took for French outsider Marion Cotillard to win the Oscar last year; she polished her English and glad-handed around town for months.

And during a hugely competitive year for documentaries, the stylishly incendiary British global warming doc The Age of Stupid has qualified for a documentary Oscar nomination, writes filmmaker Lizzie Gillet, "but we have no budget or time to chase it. All our energy is now focused on getting as many people as possible to see the film before the big U.N. Climate Summit in December of this year."

It would be lovely to think that merit will win the day, but when stacks of DVDs pile up on Academy voters' desks, it becomes a question of visibility.

This article is related to: Awards, Genres, Marketing, Oscars, Drama


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