Of all the film franchises at Lionsgate, the most financially reliable are Tyler Perry’s. Tolerate his racial stereotyping or not, he’s a money machine for the studio especially when his films star his loathesome female alter ego Madea. That is also why, after his lobbying, Lionsgate released last year’s Precious. Remember how controversial that pic was? Well, trust me: Lionsgate doesn’t begin to understand yet what a PR nightmare will surround its movie For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf because Tyler Perry is at the helm. It starts screening in 2-3 weeks now that the studio recently moved up the release date from 2011 to November 5th. Look, just my reporting last September of Perry’s plan to make the pic elicited some of Deadline’s most vicious attacks on a filmmaker.
Now I’ve learned that even Tyler’s close pal Oprah Winfrey did not want him to make the film version of the iconic 1975 play by Ntozake Shange. And that her reaction echoed the outrage of many black females along the lines of, “How dare you!” because the storyline is profoundly their story, not any man’s, and especially not his. The play is a collection of 20 poems, dealing with love, abandonment, rape, abortion, and more, told by seven different women who are identified only by color. Perry’s version has given names to the women, and is described as a poetic exploration of what is to be of color and a female in this world.
I’m told that despite her horror Oprah gave Perry “huge feedback” on the script, which Perry shot in June and July. Though he’s still finishing the film’s music, I hear Oprah and her gal pal Gayle King recently saw a rough cut and both gave Perry big props. Yes, but was Winfrey simply admiring her own handiwork or his? Perry, by enlisting Oprah’s fame and forum, ensured Precious got seen by a crossover audience. But this time I don’t think even Oprah can help him with the pic’s base. Not when there are predisposed attitudes among black women like this: “Even if Tyler Perry were just writing the script to For Colored Girls, or just directing, or just producing — even that would be too much for him to handle. He simply does not have the sensitivity, ingenuity, or abilities in any of those three capacities to do this film a sliver of the justice it deserves.” On the other hand, Lionsgate hopes controversy fills seats. Here’s the trailer: