"The Paperboy," Lee Daniels' follow-up to the Oscar-nominated "Precious," has been generating controversy since it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May. (Who can forget the first time they read about Nicole Kidman peeing on Zac Efron?) Now the film is out in limited release, and the ever-candid Daniels is making the press rounds. How could a film that includes the aforementioned watersports, plus sex, violence, racism and Efron parading around in his underwear be any more insane? Well, it almost starred Oprah Winfrey.
Daniels, who is friends with Winfrey, originally wanted the icon-cum-actress to appear in "The Paperboy" as Anita, the maid who also serves as the film's narrator.
"I offered it to Oprah, since she just produced 'Precious,'" Daniels said at the New York Film Festival debut of "The Paperboy" this week. "And she said, 'Absolutely not.'"
Daniels then turned to singer Macy Gray for the role, which originally had just four lines in the script according to the actress. The beefed up part now includes a moment when Anita walks in on Efron's character and jokes that he was trying to masturbate.
“In hindsight, I can’t imagine Oprah on the floor trying to masturbate,” Daniels told THR. “Everybody has [their] own interpretation. She would have played it very stoic, you know, something very different. I think Macy Gray was the right choice after all.” (Winfrey appears in Daniels' next film, "The Butler.")
"The Paperboy" also stars Nicole Kidman as a woman obsessed with sex and a prison inmate, played by John Cusack. In one particularly incredible moment, Kidman's character brings herself to orgasm at the prison, in front of Cusack, Efron, Matthew McConaughey and David Oyelowo.
"The orgasm was the second day of shooting," Daniels told HuffPost. "It was like we were all having sex; it was like a foursome, an orgy. Because we did it so soon, we became very protective of each other."
"The Paperboy" has been dragged over the coals by critics (it has a 46-percent Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes), with many singling out Daniels as its biggest problem. Not that the director is a stranger to slings and arrows.
"I owe it to African Americans to bring my A game," he told HuffPost. "Some of this shit [that is released] is just wack. I take movies very seriously. And I speak for people that do not have a voice, and I owe it to my comrades that are bullied and beaten and that are told that they are nothing."
"The Paperboy" is out in theaters now. For more on Daniels' work with Macy Gray, head over to THR.
BEFORE YOU GO
How to vote
Vote-by-mail ballot request deadline: Varies by state
For the Nov 3 election: States are making it easier for citizens to vote absentee by mail this year due to the coronavirus. Each state has its own rules for mail-in absentee voting. Visit your state election office website to find out if you can vote by mail.Get more informationTrack ballot status
In-person early voting dates: Varies by state
Sometimes circumstances make it hard or impossible for you to vote on Election Day. But your state may let you vote during a designated early voting period. You don't need an excuse to vote early. Visit your state election office website to find out whether they offer early voting.My Election Office
General Election: Nov 3, 2020
Polling hours on Election Day: Varies by state/localityMy Polling Place