Back in July I interviewed Mo’Nique about her phenomenal performance as an abusive mother in Lee Daniels’ drama Precious. When I inevitably asked her about all the Oscar talk that’s surrounded her since the film’s Sundance premiere in January, she responded by saying, “Any buzz is appreciated. The NAACP Image Awards, the Oscars, the SAG Award, the award they might want to give me down at the Maxine Waters’ Preparatory school, it’s always appreciated. But the moment Mr. Daniels said to me when we wrapped that movie, ‘You gave me what I needed,’ that was my Oscar.” At the time, I thought, “What an interesting way to deflect the question.” Now I’m thinking she really meant what she said. Last month, The Hollywood Reporter’s Roger Friedman reported that Mo’Nique was demanding appearance fees to show up at film festivals to promote Precious. And after she was a no-show at both the Toronto and New York festivals, the New York Daily News quoted her as saying, “I couldn’t eat that Oscar. Everybody needs money, baby. That’s how we survive, right?”
Now, I’d like to think that winning an Academy Award is only about the performance. But we all know that’s not true. You have to play the game as well. Many observers still believe one of the reasons Marion Cotillard beat Julie Christie for Best Actress two years ago is because Cotillard worked the circuit hard, especially in the final stretches, while Christie mostly stayed home in England. On its own, Mo’Nique’s blazing performance is surely strong enough to score her a supporting actress nomination, but unless Lionsgate (or Precious exec producer Oprah Winfrey) can convince her to show up at some events and not expect a six-figure fee, I wonder if she can kiss a win goodbye. It’s too bad, because in conversation, Mo’Nique is hilarious and endearing; she’d only help her case by meeting Oscar voters in person. For now, however, she doesn’t seem to care.
Photo credit: John Ricard/Retna Ltd.