Gabourey Sidibe is nothing like the victimised, down-and-out character she portrays in the film Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire. In fact, she’s the complete opposite: Sidibe is confident where her character, Precious, is shy; jovial where Precious is glum; and on the road to success, whereas Precious is drowning in the world that surrounds her. This world includes a violent mother (played by Mo’Nique), poor grades, pregnancy and a mentally retarded child (both the result of abuse by her father).
“When you speak to me it’s so obvious that I’m nothing like her,” says Sidibe, “So I don’t have to fight to get people to stop thinking that I’m like her. If I’m out in the street and someone recognises me and calls me Precious, I don’t get annoyed because I understand it. But if I say my name is Gabby and they continue to call me Precious that pisses me off,” she says with a chuckle.
That said, Sidibe can still relate to the character that is winning over audiences and critics, alike. “I relate to her the same way most people do. There’s something about her life that mirrors my own, but definitely not everything,” she says.
Critics have been so impressed by Sidibe’s portrayal, that she has been nominated for a Golden Globe, a BAFTA and an Oscar, among other awards. When the 26-year-old found out about her Globe nomination, she toasted her success with a few mimosas and her roommate by her side.
Sidibe read the book on which the film is based five years ago, but re-read the first page just before going to the open call audition for the role so that she could “remember what Precious’s voice sounded like”. While she was touched by the story the first time she encountered it, after re-reading it several times in preparation for her performance she says the story changed her: “It made me much more compassionate towards people who I otherwise would’ve ignored,” she says.
There are several violent and cringe-worthy scenes in the film that are best left for audiences to see for themselves in the cinema. However, these scenes aren’t the ones Sidibe found most difficult: “There’s a little tiny scene with the baby where I have to dunk him under the water and that was a difficult because I’m freaky and weird about babies. I love them but I’m always really afraid that I will hurt them,” she concedes.
Asked where she wants to be in five years, Sidibe hopes she is “happy and hopefully acting”. As for Precious, “She would be in college and able to raise both her children, independent of government help. I hope that she is also happy and not at the end of her life.”
“Actually I think she would be happy,” she says, “Because she continues to get up. Every time she’s knocked down by life, she continues to get up.”
Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire is in cinemas now.