Friday, March 1

Mo’Nique & Lee Daniels Patch ‘Precious’ Feud; She’ll Replace Octavia Spencer In Netflix Thriller ‘Demon House’

EXCLUSIVE: After not speaking for 13 years, Oscar-winning Precious star Mo’Nique has been set by that film’s director Lee Daniels to replace Octavia Spencer in Demon House, an exorcism film package that Netflix acquired after a brisk auction in January. Spencer had to bow out of the star-studded film because of a scheduling conflict with her Apple TV+ television show Truth Be Told.

Mo’Nique, who last worked with Daniels in the celebrated 2009 film Precious that brought her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, will take over the role of a social worker who helps a family through a series of exorcisms. Demon House reunites Daniels with Oscar-nominated The United States vs. Billie Holiday star Andra Day, who’ll star with Glenn Close, Don’t Look Up‘s Rob Morgan, Stranger Things‘ Caleb McLaughlin and Aunjanue Ellis, latter of whom is fresh from an Oscar nomination for King Richard.

At a moment of heightened acrimony in Hollywood over Will Smith’s slap of Chris Rock during the Oscars, it is nice to see the possibility that people can move past differences. Despite the success of Precious and the Oscar won by Mo’Nique for her role as an abusive mother, she accused Daniels, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry of blackballing her because she would not promote the film during awards season. It wasn’t in her contract, she said, and Mo’Nique didn’t want to spend time away from her family. They denied blackballing her, but sources said the actress and the director didn’t speak for 13 years because of the disagreement. Mo’Nique separately filed a lawsuit in 2019 against Demon House-maker Netflix, charging racial and gender discrimination for trying to drastically underpay her for a stand-up special after offering other stars tens of millions of dollars. That included comics like Oscar host Amy Schumer whom the lawsuit said made 26 times the $500,000 she was offered for an hour-long comedy special.

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Mo’Nique and Daniels have exorcised their demons and will work together in a very high profile film. When the package got brokered by CAA Media Finance, sources told Deadline that it was worth upward of $65 million, covering the film’s budget and buyouts. Daniels, Tucker Tooley and Pam Williams are producing. Production begins in June.

In a case widely covered at the time, Latoya Ammons and her three children experienced strange incidents in their Gary, IN, home that grew progressively worse, with the children levitating, becoming violent with one another and speaking in growls and deep voices with no recollection afterward. Skeptics abounded, but the Gary Police Department, Department of Child Services and the local church and hospital all became involved, filing reports that took the supernatural occurrences seriously. Officers, doctors and social workers said they witnessed many of the incidents, including one in which her 9-year-old son walked backward up a wall. The Indianapolis Star covered it closely as the Department of Child Services investigated it.

Ammons optioned her rights to Relativity when the story first became public in 2014, but the movie didn’t get made and those rights lapsed several years ago as Relativity plunged into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Producer Tooley, a former Relativity exec, acquired the lapsed rights after that, under his Tooley Entertainment banner. Then came a long development to get it to a film ready to be made. Dave Coggeshall wrote drafts, as did Elijah Bynum. Then Daniels rewrote it himself, and that is the script the buyers read. It uses the case to frame a fictional thriller, as was done with The Amityville Horror, The Exorcist, The Conjuring and other franchises purported to be based on or inspired by actual events.

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Also producing are Todd Crites and Jackson Nguyen of Turn Left Productions, and Greg Renker and Gregoire Gensollen are EPs.

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