Why Hollywood won't cast Mo'Nique anymore

Monique Angela Hicks — better known by her stage name Mo'Nique — was poised to become one of Hollywood's biggest stars when she took home the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for playing Mary Lee Johnston in the 2009 film Precious. The abusive and manipulative character was in stark contrast to the playful and vibrant personality the stand-up comedienne displays on stage. But nailing the dark and sinister role showed everyone that she was versatile and ready to take the entertainment biz by storm.

Only, things didn't quite pan out that way for the Maryland native. Instead of her career trajectory proceeding on a steady incline, she seemingly disappeared from the big screen. Her IMDb page even details a years-long, unexplained hiatus from the industry. Puzzling.

So what happened? From rumors she became money-hungry and too demanding, to the accusation that she didn't "play the game," here's the real reason why Hollywood won't cast Mo'Nique anymore.

When she turned down Cannes, the studio said, 'Adieu.'

There was a ton of buzz about Mo'Nique being an Oscars contender after the release of Precious, and in order to increase her chances of taking home the award, she was asked to schmooze with other A-listers and promote the film at various film festivals. However, according to the New York Daily News, Mo'Nique was a no-show at the New York Film Festival, and she also skipped out on the Toronto Film Festival "when she was denied a $100,000 appearance fee."

"You want me to campaign for an award — and I say this with all the humility in the world — but you want me to campaign for an award that I didn't ask for," Mo'Nique told The Hollywood Reporter. When she was called out for allegedly refusing to promote the film, Mo'Nique revealed to CNN's Don Lemon that she was only paid $50,000 to appear in the award-winning film. She also implied that the travel costs associated with promoting the film were prohibitive, and since the studio refused to pay her to make the promotional appearances, she chose not to do them.

Mo'Nique told Lemon that after her decision to "respectfully decline" the studio's invitation to fly to France to attend the Cannes Film Festival, the narrative changed to her being difficult and demanding, thus pushing her out of the limelight.

A shady Oscars speech

Executive produced by Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey, and directed by Lee Daniels, Precious was released in 2009 to glowing accolades. Based on the novel Push by the author Sapphire, Precious tells the story of an overweight girl, Claireece "Precious" Jones, played by Gabourey Sidibe, and her abusive mother, Mary Lee Johnston, played by Mo'Nique.

On the night of March 7, 2010, Mo'Nique showed up to the 82nd Academy Awards in her elegant royal blue evening gown. As the late comedian Robin Williams announced her as the winner for best actress in a supporting role, everyone in attendance at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, Calif. collectively rose to their feet to give her a standing ovation. Yas! This was her moment!

The opening line of her acceptance speech rubbed many people the wrong way, when she thanked the Academy "for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics."

Wait — did she really publicly disrespect the members of the Academy? OMG. No wonder the industry won't cast her!

She got blackballed because she 'didn't play the game'

Mo'Nique told The Hollywood Reporter that she "was offered the role in The Butler that Oprah Winfrey played," and she even received an offer to appear an another Lee Daniels project, the highly rated show we all now know as Fox's Empire. Daniels also reportedly offered Mo'Nique "the role as Richard Pryor's grandmother" in a biopic Daniels was slated to direct. Following her Oscar win, Mo'Nique said "each of those things that he offered me was taken off the table. … They all just went away. But that's just part of the business, you know?" 

Mo'Nique received a call sometime in 2014 from Daniels, and it was during that phone call that he told her, "Mo'Nique, you've been blackballed," she told The Hollywood Reporter. When she asked for an explanation why, Daniels reportedly said, "Because you didn't play the game." 

Following the release of that interview, Daniels issued a statement, calling Mo'Nique a "creative force to be reckoned with." But then, he added that "her demands through Precious were not always in line with the campaign. This soured her relationship with the Hollywood community." Ouch.

As for the post-Precious roles he offered her, Daniels said, "I have and will always think of her for parts that we can collaborate on. However, the consensus among the creative teams and powers thus far were to go another way with these roles."

She thought her life would change for the better. It didn't.

As an Academy Award-winning actress, surely so many doors would open, offers would come pouring in, and the entertainer's net worth would increase, right? Well, not quite, according to Mo'Nique, at least. 

She was under the assumption that taking home the coveted award would lead to "more respect, more choices and more money." But she learned that wouldn't be the case. Mo'Nique told The Hollywood Reporter about a conversation she had with Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar for her 1939 performance in Gone With the Wind. "Hattie said, 'After I won that award, it was as if I had done something wrong.' It was the same with me," Mo'Nique said.

That would certainly leave a sour taste in anyone's mouth, and while some would maybe keep their negative thoughts to themselves, Mo'Nique went on a rampage and ruffled way too many feathers.

She 'bad-mouthed' Hollywood heavy-hitters

During one of her most controversial stand-up routines, Mo'Nique went after the people she felt had crushed her chances of having a successful acting career. Directed toward those who were involved in the film Precious, including Lee Daniels (pictured, right), Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey, Mo'Nique said they "can suck my d***k, if I had one!" Okay, ew.

In response, Daniels appeared on Raq Rants and insisted he had supported Mo'Nique and was on her side initially. "I fought hard for her to get that job. I wanted her to get that job. And she was paid her money. She was paid the money for the budget that we had," he said in regards to the comedienne receiving a $50,000 payment for appearing in the film. 

Daniels added, "And for her to badmouth myself — and Tyler and Oprah — is disrespectful and it's wrong. She's wrong. She's out of pocket. She's really wrong."

Is it right that she was paid $50,000 for a film that grossed over $47 million domestically as of this writing? Perhaps not, but the way she grotesquely expressed her disappointment and anger didn't earn her any new friends in the industry, either. 

She called for a Netflix boycott

Next up, Mo'Nique set her sights on the digital streaming service Netflix in January 2018. Netflix reportedly offered her $500,000 to film her own stand-up comedy special. Mo'Nique felt the offer was way too low, especially in comparison to the $13 million they gave comedienne Amy Schumer, and Mo'Nique's offer was $19.5 million less than her male counterparts, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle.

In an Instagram video, the comedienne called for a boycott of Netflix "for gender bias and color bias." She even took her crusade to The View to speak about what she deemed as unfair treatment. Mo'Nique also told Vulture that she wasn't feeling the company's low offer and she demanded they take a look at her resume, but they wouldn't budge. "So, when my husband and our attorney says, 'Well, let's go back in so we can renegotiate this,' it was 'Take it or leave it.' That's what it is," she said.

Mo'Nique pushing for more and more money is reportedly a common theme in her business dealings, dating back to the buzz she received after starring in Precious, according to the New York Daily News. But did she really think that trying to hurt a media giant like Netflix by publicizing their private negotiations would do her career more harm than good? 

No one had her back

Being a veteran in the entertainment industry means Mo'Nique has a long list of famous friends, from fellow comedians, to producers and directors. When she refused to promote Precious and rumors circulated that she was nothing but trouble, she met with some of her industry friends to receive guidance and support, including Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, and Steve Harvey (pictured, left), to name a few.

She later appeared on Steve Harvey's show to engage in a heated debate. During her sit-down interview, Mo'Nique told Harvey she was disappointed because when he and her friends met with her privately, they told her she had done nothing wrong, but she was furious that "none of [them], in real time, were strong enough to go publicly and say, 'We can't throw our sister under the bus.'" Harvey went on the record to say Mo'Nique was owed an apology from the bigwigs involved with Precious, but he also told Mo'Nique she needed to apologize for the hurtful things she had said about them. Uh oh.

"I'm never, ever going to waver from my comedy show on that stage — that's my gift and that's my freedom," she said.

As of this writing, Harvey's attempts to help Mo'Nique wiggle her way back into everyone's good graces fell short. At this point, we're not even sure she cares to be back in Hollywood's inner circle, especially since she's forged her own path…

Who needs movies when Vegas is calling

Hollywood may not be knocking down her door, but Mo'Nique still has a legion of fans who enjoy her sometimes raunchy jokes. Because she has held on to her popularity in the underground circuit, she has found a new home on the comedy trail. As of 2019, she was hired to headline her own residency in Las Vegas at the SLS Hostel and Casino, according to the Washington Post. The publication also stated that Mo'Nique is "the first black female comedian to have her own residency in Sin City."

After all that she has been through, Mo'Nique said she has no regrets about how things panned out for her career. While speaking with Las Vegas Weekly, she was just excited to get back on the stage and show the world what she's made of. "When you come to Mo'Nique Does Vegas, I'ma do Vegas, and you're coming for a lot of laughter, no judgment, a lot of love and a great time," she said.

What's next for Mo'Nique?

After her abrupt departure from the industry, Mo'Nique took the bull by the horns and put her career into her own hands. She told The Hollywood Reporter that she and her husband, Sidney Hicks (pictured, left), decided to take a different path to get her back into films. "We're very proud of taking the independent route, and we have a movie coming out on April 24 [2015] called Blackbird," she said.

She also appeared in the movie Almost Christmas and even received rave reviews from critics. The Chicago Tribune thanked director David E. Talbert "for finally giving Mo'Nique a decent role after her Oscar-winning turn in 2009's Precious." The publication added, "We needed her back on the big screen."

So, all is not lost for Mo'Nique. Hollywood may still be warming up to her, but absolutely nothing can stop this queen of comedy from sharing her talent with the world.