Everyone knew Mo’Nique was going to win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Precious in 2010; hell, the promise of a Mo’Nique acceptance speech was 85% of the reason I even tuned in. Which really makes you wonder: where the hell has she been since? Her post-Precious credits include Steppin: The Movie, which went straight to DVD, and three movies that haven’t been released yet. So what gives?
Mo’Nique explained it in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Well, mostly she was just her charming, candid self, but she also addressed the career thing.
You know, I received a lot of criticism [around the 2010 awards season] because people felt like I wasn’t campaigning. Remember that? (Laughs.)
The things people were writing and saying, it was mind-blowing. But what I was saying was, “You want me to campaign for an award — and I say this with all the humility in the world — but you want me to campaign for an award that I didn’t ask for.” So when I’m in Utah at the Sundance Festival, and an Asian brother comes up to me and breaks down in my arms, and says, “Mo’Nique, I am Mary Jones,” do you know that’s the biggest award you could receive? It had nothing to do with a trophy. If people want to say I didn’t campaign because I took my family first? I’ll accept that.
But you proved that you don’t need to campaign. You won.
The members of the Academy proved it. They said, “You know what? We’re going to judge the performance, not how many parties she can come to.” […]
How has the Oscar changed your life? Has it?
I get asked that question a lot: How did the Oscar change my life? What it did was that it gave me a new reality. And it let me know that an award wasn’t going to change my life — that I had to be in control of changing my life. I’ll ask you: How do you think the Oscar was supposed to change my life?
That it made everyone respect you more — that you’re not a comic who acts but an Oscar-winning dramatic actress. A force to be contended with.
And how else do you think it should have changed?
More choices, everyone offering you parts?
What else do you think it should’ve changed? (Laughs.) You know what I’m looking for.
I’m not sure — that it made you happier?
Do you think it should have changed things financially?
See? “Yes.” What I understood was that when I won that Oscar, things would change in all the ways you’re saying: It should come with more respect, more choices and more money. It should, and it normally does. Hattie [McDaniel, the first black Oscar winner] said, “After I won that award, it was as if I had done something wrong.” It was the same with me. I thought, once you won the award, that’s the top prize — and so you’re supposed to be treated as if you got the top prize.
I got a phone call from [Precious director] Lee Daniels maybe six or seven months ago. And he said to me, “Mo’Nique, you’ve been blackballed.” And I said, “I’ve been blackballed? Why have I been blackballed?” And he said, “Because you didn’t play the game.” And I said, “Well, what game is that?” And he gave me no response. The next thing he said to me was, “Your husband is outbidding you.”
Mo’Nique’s husband is Sidney Cox, executive producer of her now-defunct talk show and the upcoming Blackbird.
But he never asked me what [salary] we were asking for. You know, my husband and I had to change things so we wouldn’t have to depend on [others]. So we do it independently. We’re very proud of taking the independent route, and we have a movie coming out on April 24 called Blackbird.
What do you think Lee meant when he said that?
That I was blackballed?
And that your husband was “outbidding you.” What was he referring to?
You know what I learned? Never to think what somebody else was thinking. That’s a question you would have to ask Lee Daniels.* There have been people that have said, “Mo’Nique, she can be difficult. Mo’Nique and her husband can be difficult.” They could probably be right. One of the networks said to [Lee] that I was “really difficult to work with.” And I said, “Well, that’s funny, because I’ve never even worked with them, but OK.”
Lee Daniels issued this statement to THR in response:
“Mo’nique is a creative force to be reckoned with. Her demands through Precious were not always in line with the campaign. This soured her relationship with the Hollywood community. I consider her a friend. I have and will always think of her for parts that we can collaborate on. However, the consensus among the creative teams and powers thus far were to go another way with these roles.”
So… uh… yeah. Good luck trying to get to the bottom of that one. It’s unclear what Daniels meant about “the campaign.” If he means Oscar campaign, you’d think it would be a silly thing to hold against a person after she ended up winning anyway. Who knows what really happened. All I know is, I have nothing but respect for the actors who go full Joaquin Phoenix during awards season.