Precious director Lee Daniels fired ‘disrespectful’ crew after white DP couldn’t light Black skin

By Ellie Harrison
Lee Daniels/Kobal/Shutterstock

Lee Daniels, the director of the Oscar-winning 2009 film Precious, has revealed he fired his crew because they failed to light the Black actors’ skin properly.

During a reunion with lead star Gabourey Sidibe at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival, attended by EW, Daniels said: “I had a white line producer, a white AD, they also read [reviews that said my last film] Shadowboxer was the worst film ever made, and they had zero respect for me, my vision, or what it was. They were New Yorkers that looked at this as a job.”

He continued: “I kept coming home like, this doesn’t feel right, she doesn’t look right, the set looks weird. I felt like I was giving birth to an alien, literally, so I did something that I now don’t even know whether I’d have the courage to do, but I fired everybody. I shut it down… They were all white guys, just rude, disrespectful, really rude to what I wanted to do.”

Daniels added: “I was so nervous about making sure that she was lit beautifully. It didn’t feel right. Whether we were going to take a financial hit because of it, I just blindly shut it down.”

The filmmaker replaces his DP with Andrew Dunn, who had shot The Madness of King George and The Bodyguard.

Lee Daniels, Gabourey Gabby Sidibe, Xosha Roquemore on the set of ‘Precious’ (Lee Daniels/Kobal/Shutterstock)

Sidibe, who confirmed that Daniels shut production down after 20 days, said the original DP had “no idea” how to light her skin, and that she was left looking green in the footage.

The actor, who was reportedly tearful during the interview, said: “One time we were shooting under a bridge in a literal gutter – not a ‘set’ gutter, like, a gutter – with actual green slime on the ground... I had to lay so they could light me on the ground, and I swear to you, I was on the ground for over an hour while they were trying to light me.”

Precious starred Sidibe as a 16-year-old girl, pregnant by her own father for the second time, who can’t read or write and suffers constant abuse at the hands of her mother. The film follows her as she is given the chance to turn her life around at an alternative school.

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