Bet You Didn’t Know: Secrets Behind The Making of “Diary of a Mad Black Woman”

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Before Tyler Perry went mainstream, becoming the first black man to own his own studio, he was a very popular playwright in the black community. People came in droves to see his plays, you couldn’t pass a bootlegger who didn’t have one of his DVDs and slowly but surely black folk were starting to adopt Madea’s vernacular. (Hell-er!) Then he hit the big screen with his first feature film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman. Coming out the mixed reviews, the film featured some decent actors, including Kimberly Elise, Steve Harris and the legendary Cicely Tyson. Maybe you’re more familiar than a little bit with this film, but we bet you don’t know the secrets behind this film. Check them out.

Fox didn’t want it

Originally, Perry took his script to Fox Searchlight but the company wasn’t feeling it and decided to pass. But Lions Gate had a completely different reaction. When they received the script in 2004, it only took them a week to decide they were going to make the movie.

Tyler’s got that dough

Diary of Mad Black Woman cost $5.5. million dollars to make and from all of his very successful plays, he was able to finance half of it. It turned out to be a very good investment in that the movie made $21 million in the first weekend and over $50 million during its box office run in the United States.

Wasn’t that a nice house?

Remember the house that Charles so ruthlessly threw Helen out of? The same house that Madea demolished with a chainsaw? That was Tyler Perry’s real life home. So hopefully that was prop furniture. After all of his success, he’s probably upgraded since 2005.

Who’s the director?

You may be surprised to learn that Tyler Perry actually didn’t direct his first feature film. Instead Darren Grant was the man behind the scenes. You may not recognize his name, but you’ve most likely seen his work. He was the mastermind behind some very popular music videos including Dru Hill’s “In My Bed,” Brian McKnight’s “Anytime,” Destiny Child’s “No, No, No (Part 2),” and many more from Aaliyah, Boyz II Men, and Mya.


Should Charles and Helen be together?

At the end of the movie, though Helen has forgiven her unbelievably cruel husband Charles (Steve Harris), she has found a new love in Orlando (Shemar Moore). But you know in a lot of Perry’s earlier works, the Christian message was a central piece to the plot. In the play, like the movie, Charles goes to church and starts living his life more righteously. But unlike the movie, in the play Helen is able to forgive all of Charles’ indiscretions and they end up working on their marriage.


Did Tyler steal that idea?

In 2008, three years after Diary of a Mad Black Woman was released, playwright Donna West sued Perry, claiming that the idea was stolen from her work Fantasy of a Black Woman. Instead of settling, Perry took West to court and the jury ruled, 8-0, that Perry had not taken her idea.

Roger Ebert is not a fan of Madea

Roger Ebert, who usually, reviews black movies favorably, or at least with a modicum of understanding, was not a fan of Madea. In fact, he said her character was fatal to the movie. He went so far as to ask: “What was Tyler Perry thinking?” And then the final nail in the coffin of his terribly unfavorable review came when he wrote: “I’ve been reviewing movies for a long time, and I can’t think of one that more dramatically shot itself in the foot.”

Was Tyler scared to make his first film?

After Tyler Perry became a [black] household name through his plays and eventually his movies, he and media mogul Oprah became fast friends. He was featured on her talk show a few times, detailing his sexual abuse, his homeless struggles and his troubled relationship with his father. She’s often described him as a good friend. When Oprah interviewed Perry for her magazine, she asked him if he was scared to star in and produce his first feature film. Perry told her: “No, because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I just saw all those people coming out to the plays.”

He surely hasn’t slowed down any. What did you think about Diary of a Mad Black Woman?

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