Winning an Academy Award doesn’t guarantee an actor the fast track to international superstardom and eight-figure paydays, but it certainly can’t hurt anyone’s career, right? Wrong, according to Mo’Nique, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2010 for her performance in Lee Daniels’ Precious, and now says winning the award got her blackballed throughout Hollywood and precluded her participation in several projects.
To be more precise, Mo’Nique told The Hollywood Reporter she was shut out of coveted post-Precious roles not as a result of winning the award, but because she did so despite flouting the highly political campaign process. Mo’Nique said she found out about the sinister forces operating against her from Daniels himself, who told her she had been blackballed—using precisely that language—then provided cryptic non-answers when she pressed for specifics.
“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.’ But he never asked me what [salary] we were asking for.”
Mo’Nique didn’t have further details about or insight into Daniels’ comments, but she said Daniels is so intimately familiar with Tinseltown’s perceptions of her because she was boxed out of several of his projects. Namely, Mo’Nique said she was offered, then denied, the female lead opposite Forest Whitaker in The Butler, a role that eventually went to Oprah Winfrey. She also got offers to play Richard Pryor’s grandmother in Daniels’ forthcoming biopic and appear in his hit series Empire, but each time, Daniels called back to say the producers went another direction. Specifically, they went in the opposite direction of the “Mo’Nique Ahead” street sign.
Though Mo’Nique was pretty gracious towards Daniels in the interview, her comments implied a fractured relationship with the director, since Mo’Nique’s evidence only supports the theory that she has been blackballed in any part of Hollywood where Daniels plans to be. Daniels quickly issued a statement 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.”
Daniels’ comments are unlikely to quell rumors of a rift, since he basically said, “Everybody thinks she’s a demanding, ungrateful troll, and I’m all like, ‘Hey now, that’s my BFF…but if you guys think she’s a demanding, ungrateful troll, we don’t have to hang out with her.’” In fairness, back in 2010, Mo’Nique was excoriated in the press for her refusal to attend award-season parties and gladhand AMPAS voters, particularly because she reportedly asked to be paid for each appearance. (Hence Daniels’ reference to her “demands.”) She won anyway, but perceptions of her disrespect toward the Academy was exacerbated by the opening line of her acceptance speech: “I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics.”
But considering the same press cycle portrayed the two as platonic soulmates, it’s surprising that Daniels won’t defend Mo’Nique for withdrawing from the campaign process Joaquin Phoenix once called “total, utter bullshit” and Anthony Hopkins called “disgusting” without nearly the same level of backlash. This portends badly for a potential screen reunion between Mo’Nique and her Precious co-star Gabourey Sidibe on Empire, but don’t be surprised if the ice begins to thaw somewhere around Empire’s inevitable season two ratings drop.