NY Daily News Reports
Remember “Glitter”? Mariah Carey is about to make you forget all about it.
In the past two years, the Long Island-raised superstar, 40, has revived an acting career that most critics thought was dead on arrival.
She has stepped up to the plate with risky roles. Her latest: a tough-as-nails social worker in the gritty Harlem-set drama “Precious.“
The part was originally offered to Oscar winner Helen Mirren, and Carey came in to fill her shoes with determination — and without makeup.
Carey as a social worker in the gritty drama ‘Precious,’ about an abused teen
What’s more, the film, which hits theaters this Friday and also stars Mo’Nique and Brooklyn-born newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, is being hailed as an Oscar contender.
It’s a career turn no one could have envisioned for Carey back in 2001, when her semi-autobiographical star vehicle “Glitter” opened to atrocious reviews.
At the box office on its opening weekend, “Glitter” didn’t even make the top 10. It disappeared from cinemas within weeks, the soundtrack sold poorly, and by the end of the year, after reports that she had suffered an emotional breakdown, Carey was dumped by Virgin Records, the company that had signed her for a whopping $80 million only months earlier.
In building herself back up, Carey has attained a unique position. She has earned recognition as a serious actress without letting go of her popular appeal. She has targeted roles in indie films while climbing back to the top of the pop charts and enchanting fans with her fairy-tale marriage, played out across the pages of the celeb glossies.
She started her rebound from “Glitter” with a baby step: a role in the 2002 comic thriller “WiseGirls,” which premiered on cable, not in the multiplex. Carey, Mira Sorvino and Melora Walters played waitresses at a Staten Island restaurant run by the mob. Even though it wasn’t a hit, the film dulled the pain of her performance the previous year. Wrote Fox News columnist Roger Friedman: “Even though she tends to wear skimpy outfits as usual, her line delivery is sharp and she manages to get the right laughs.”
A producer of “WiseGirls,” Anthony Esposito, so admired Carey’s work that he announced she would appear in his next film as a boxing manager who pushes an unknown female fighter to fame. Other reports indicated that he had spoken too soon, and that Carey wasn’t sold on the project. It never got made, and Carey’s slow push toward screen stardom relied instead on an episode of “Ally McBeal” and cameos as herself.
In 2005, she soared back atop the pop charts when “We Belong Together,” from her album “The Emancipation of Mimi,” stayed at No. 1 for 14 weeks. She didn’t have to wait long before she landed a supporting role in the low-budget road movie “Tennessee” after catching the eye of producer Lee Daniels, who would go on to direct “Precious.”
“I never saw ‘Glitter,’?” Daniels said at the time, “but I liked her work in ['WiseGirls'].” Said Carey of the role: “Some people come into our lives and take a chance, someone like Lee Daniels.”
The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2008. It was an especially busy month for Carey. Not only was her performance singled out as one of the best parts of “Tennessee,” but she had recently broken Elvis Presley’s record for chart-topping singles, and only the Beatles remained ahead of her on the list.
On top of those successes, Carey stirred up engagement rumors when she arrived at the “Tennessee” after-party with Nick Cannon, a rapper and TV personality 11 years her junior, and an enormous, sparkling ring on her hand. It was her first serious relationship since before “Glitter.” She later revealed that Cannon had proposed on the rooftop of her Manhattan apartment, the 17-carat diamond hidden inside a candy ring pop.
Yes, you read that correctly — 17 carats!
On April 30, 2008, the two were married in a top-secret ceremony in the Caribbean. The next few months were an over-the-top celebration of their love. They made their first public appearance in New York at the Time 100 gala and dined afterward at the Waverly Inn. Cannon rented out a Six Flags amusement park in California and threw a Nick-and-Mariah-themed bash for their friends. The two openly discussed wanting children, and Carey has said in interviews that she is ready to be a mom.
But even as she was cavorting with Prince Charming and considering a family, Carey proved she had edge. Her feud with rapper Eminem, which has dragged on for years as he mines an alleged tryst with Carey to generate scathing lyrics, flared up again early this year. His track “Bagpipes From Baghdad” called Carey a “whore” and lashed out at her new husband.
Cannon defended Carey on his blog, a digital knight in shining armor, but she — in her inimitable style — had her own ways of getting even. Her chart-topper “Obsessed” — the first single from her latest album, “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel” — asked why a certain drug-addled dude with a “Napoleon complex” wouldn’t stop telling lies about her. Carey even dressed in drag in the music video, appearing as an Eminem-esque figure with a goatee and a hooded sweatshirt.
Eminem retaliated with “The Warning,” which contained graphic allegations about sex with the singer. Even that failed to fluster Carey. Comparing the two tracks, she has said, “See, the difference is, my song is on the radio and his, you have to search for it.”
But the trump card in the real-life emancipation of Mimi is “Precious,” in which she plays a role so transformative that some critics have said it is impossible to recognize the diva.
Carey’s welfare caseworker is flat-haired and tired, with just the hint of a mustache. “I looked so damn ugly!” she has said of shooting the film. “I just kept away from mirrors.” But she told People magazine when the film hit the festival circuit, “There’s a creative side of me that needs to do work like this.”
Mirren, another of Daniels’ past collaborators, had turned the role down because of a scheduling conflict. Carey was ready to follow Daniels’ vision — he helped create the play-against-type performance that won Halle Berry an Oscar for “Monster’s Ball” — and she sang at a “Precious” fund-raiser to help secure financing.
The film has impressed audiences at the Sundance, Toronto and Cannes film festivals and won the support of Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. It was the centerpiece of the New York Film Festival in October. Carey’s red-carpet opportunities are multiplying, but to do her best film work yet she had to push aside that glamorous pop-princess image, at least temporarily. For Carey, “range” is no longer only about octaves.
“I basically told her, ‘I want to see the Mariah I see when I’m in your house and we’re kickin’ it, watching TV and eating popcorn,’?” Daniels has said. “I knew she had it in her.”