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‘I Fired Everybody’: Lee Daniels and Gabourey Sidibe Emotionally Recall His Firing of ‘Disrespectful’ White Crew Members on the Set of ‘Precious’

Film creator Lee Daniels is opening up about why he “fired everybody” on the film crew for his 2009 film ‘Precious.’

Sitting next to the film’s star Gabourey Sidibe on a panel at the Toronto International Film Festival, Daniels shed light on the events that led to him having to replace a few of his crew members. It started with the dailies, which in film terms, is an unedited footage of a movie or TV show. Daniels said he “didn’t like” them and “didn’t feel good about it,” as Sidibe got emotional and wiped tears away from her eyes.

Lee Daniels attends the TIME 100 Gala 2019 Lobby Arrivals at Jazz at Lincoln Center on April 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for TIME)

“I had a white line producer, a white AD; they also read that “Shadowboxer” was the worst film ever made that year,” he said referring to his 2005 film. He continued, explaining that the AD and the line producer “had zero respect for me, my vision, or what it was. They were New Yorkers that looked at this as a job. 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, and so I did something that I now don’t even know whether I would have the courage to do, but I fired everybody. I shut it down.” Sibide interjected with “20 days in.”

Continuing on, Daniels added, “I was so, so nervous about making sure that she was lit beautifully. It didn’t feel right and so I shut it down. My financier really believed in me. We didn’t know that it was going to be the hit it was going to be financially.”

He added, “I just blindly shut it down.” The “Empire” producer said he ended up bringing Andrew Dunn on as the new director of photography. Daniels gave Dunn credit for being his hero, saying “he saved me.” The two have gone on to work on numerous other projects such as “The Butler,” “Empire” and “The United States vs. Billie Holiday.”

Chiming in, Sidibe added, “the original DP had no idea how to light my skin.” She said that on film she looked “green” sometimes and she mentioned a time where they filmed a scene in a gutter. She said, “I had to lay so they could light me, and I swear to you I was on the ground for over an hour, while they were trying to light me.” Sidibe admitted that she’s had other occurrences where DPs don’t light her skin properly and said, “That was one of the major problems with him.”

The film ended up doing well and not only earned an Oscar but also grossed $60 million worldwide.

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