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

by Anne Thompson
October 27, 2009 10:01 AM
8 Comments
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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.

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More: Awards, Genres, Marketing, Oscars, Drama

8 Comments

  • brenda | November 10, 2009 4:55 AMReply

    i love the movie i wish that you can send me the whole movie

  • I JUST WATCHED IT ONLINE =P | November 8, 2009 11:23 AMReply

    i just watched here it has a zshare video

    http://www.watch-tvshowz.info/shows/movies/precious/

  • lisa t | October 30, 2009 11:35 AMReply

    well, sergio, then how do you explain his first oscar, when he refused to work and still got nominated and won? obviously you must be part of the industrial publicity empire, so ask your patron how to respond.

  • Sergio | October 27, 2009 11:17 AMReply

    lisa t

    You may not like it but that's the way of the world. Just like how Sean Penn cleaned up his act this year and played nice to help him get the Oscar for Milk since he didn't have the most likeable rep in Hollywood

  • lisa t | October 27, 2009 9:02 AMReply

    wow - is this not the most self-serving bunch of crap ever? Mo'Nique won't get nominated if she doesn't come out and kiss a bunch of self-proclaimed oscar experts asses? what happens now - all of these experts have raved about how great she is in the movie. do they take back their raves? sit in a corner and pout? or just continue to collect their incredibly wasteful fees...

  • Sergio | October 27, 2009 6:06 AMReply

    She may get along with Lee Daniels for some reason, but Mo'Nique has a long notorious rep of being very difficult to work and just to deal with. (A friend of mine who's crossed paths with her said half jokingly that the character in Precious is just a "slightly" exaggerated portrayal of Mo'Nique herself) However, I'm sure she'll be cleaning up her act and behave to get that Oscar nomination for the same reason Daniels has cut off his usual wild hair and is acting much calmer than usual lately for interviews and in public. He wants to be "Oscar ready".

  • snowballa | October 27, 2009 2:30 AMReply

    It's so funny that they practically make you beg and grovel when your actual performance should be enough. Everyone has heard how great she is and thus can go see the movie. What is an interview with her talking about it going to do really? This is why the Weinstein Bros. were able to hijack the ceremony in the 90s.

  • Ryan Sartor | October 27, 2009 1:12 AMReply

    I'm sure it's not her intention, but if someone like Mo’Nique, who seems to be starring in a film that will have a great deal of mainstream Oscar appeal, doesn't get nominated - perhaps it could be a good thing. If at the end of the Oscar season more people say, "She should have been nominated," and look at the reasons why she was not, it could harm the validity of the Oscars and maybe make things change for future campaigns.

    It's a naive hope, but I couldn't believe Michelle Williams didn't get nominated last year just because Oscilloscope didn't have more money. I hope those reasons, money & stars not wanting to publicize constantly, won't be such big factors in the future. One day...

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