In a cover story for Variety ahead of Sunday’s Academy Awards, Oscar winner Mo’Nique reveals that she received just $50,000 and an inconsequential back-end deal for starring in Precious which went on to gross $47.5 million at the domestic box office.
“There was a backend, in all fairness. But the end it was behind, it was the double triple quadruple backend,” Mo’Nique explained.
She says she signed the contract because she trusted director Lee Daniels, who was a friend.
“Because Lee Daniels was my friend, he said, ‘This is what.’ And we said, ‘Okay.’ That movie made a lot of money all over the world. And again you have to ask yourself, ‘Why is it that we don’t take part in it [financially]?’ Myself and Gabourey Sidibe, we should have become multi-millionaires off that movie, had we been given the right information. We weren’t given the right information. If you’re not given the right information, it doesn’t allow you to negotiate fairly.
The Q&A continues below:
What’s the right information?
By them saying, “Let me lay everything out on the table. This is what this means, this is what this backend means.” I don’t think my friend will tell me anything that’s not right. But then you understand it’s business. It’s a lesson well learned, a costly one. You have to ask yourself if “Precious” is so successful, why is that I’m not getting offers that make sense because you see what happens at the box office? I don’t say it’s just because of me. It was a collective group. Everyone that took part was a big part of the success.
The budget of the movie was $10 million and it grossed $54 million domestically. Who made that money?
Someone did, my love. Can you please call them and ask them where it is?
Would you say your “Precious” contract was a bad one?
I want to play fairly and I want to say no, because I signed up for that. What I can’t do now is cry and say I was mistreated.
Do you talk to Lee Daniels?
I haven’t spoken to Lee Daniels in a while. But when I say someone is my friend, I don’t say that lightly. Whenever my friend is ready to have a conversation, I’m right here.
Did you stop speaking to him after he considered you for the role in “Empire?”
I never stopped speaking him. I don’t like the play on words. Do you have friends?
Sometimes people don’t have them; it’s Hollywood. You ever have a friend that they just get to show off? You still love them, but you have to let them get through it. And when they get finished showing off and they knock on the door and they open it up and they come with their arms extended and you hug them. That’s all that is. Whenever he’s ready to reconnect, I’m right here. I’m a connector.
Did winning the Oscar hurt your career?
When you know the history of Hattie [McDaniel, the first African American to win an Oscar for “Gone with the Wind” in 1940], she said she felt like she had been cursed. They already didn’t want to pay her fairly. Now that she had won the highest award in the acting business of Hollywood, now you think we’re going to treat you fairly?
Unfortunately, that sweet woman died penniless. She didn’t get the money she was supposed to get. So did it hurt my career? I have to say no, it didn’t. What I did always have was the option to say “yes” or “no.” I think, unfortunately, there are times where we don’t have the option. I’m a stand-up comedian. I go on the road. I tour. So I always have the option to say, “No, thank you.” But what about the ones who don’t have the option? I don’t know how much has changed from Hattie to right now.
It’s sad to think that little has changed.
Because we just haven’t had the right conversations. I know my husband has said to me, “Mama, it’s not that people in Hollywood are bad people at all.” It’s just that they are conditioned to do it that way. We always want to speak about racism in Hollywood. I’ve done business with people of color who have not played fairly. Are they racist or is this just the business model? “I want to get as much as I can from you and give you as little as I can.”
Read the entire Q&A here.