Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels talked to The New York Times about his new film, The Paperboy, including his anguish at Cannes, the Nicole Kidman and Zac Efron peeing-on-the-beach-scene (I can’t wait!), and Matthew McConaughey being butt-naked surrounded by a room full of black guys . . . inspired by Daniels’ real life.
On Cannes: I didn’t appreciate it like I should have, because, prior to that, I had read a review. [Laughs.] So I didn’t think I deserved the ovation! There had been a press screening prior to the premiere, and as I was putting on my tie to walk out the door, my publicist said, “The Hollywood Reporter’s in, and it’s good. Do you want to read it?” Ordinarily I don’t — I read one negative review for Precious, and it crumpled me — but he read it, and I said, “Oh, that’s nice.” And then as we were getting in the elevator he said, “Oh, and Variety’s in, do you want to read that one?” And I literally spit in my fingers and rolled the dice in the elevator and said, “Sure.” And by the time I got to the first floor, I was in the fetal position. [Laughs.] I called Nicole and said, “Nicole, they hated us! What are we doing here? How did we even get into Cannes?!” And she said, “Well, you know, Lee, they boo people at Cannes.” We had gotten a ten-minute standing ovation for Precious, so the concept of being booed . . . I’m telling you, I walked the red carpet after that, and if you really study those pictures, you see a kid who was abused by his dad. I retreated to that place.
On the golden shower: We just went for it and never thought twice about it, because it made sense for the film. It was what it was. I think that I became more nervous about it in the edit room, and I thought, I’m not actually going to show this, right? Is it vulgar? And I called Nicole and said, “I don’t know,” and she said, “Lee, you made me pee on Zac Efron. If you don’t put it in the movie, you need to man up.” And I was like, “All right, I ain’t gonna pussy out! Okay."
On McConaughey and the “mandingoes": I gotta tell you, I’m so proud of what he did and where he went for me, because he’s so not that guy. When he is looking up to those black men, those mandingoes, and he’s butt naked and salivating for more, it touched me. Everything I put into this movie, I know. In the eighties, I would date these white guys, and I dated a guy who killed himself. He was from the South, and he was dealing with his parents, who’d rejected him, and he was racist. He was taught to be racist, and he crossed that line by going to a place with me, and he hated himself for it."
For more with Lee Daniels, Xtra talked to the filmmaker at the TIFF premiere of The Paperboy: