Mo'Nique accepted her role to raise awareness of sexual abuse. A confessed victim of incest herself, the actress had great reservations about playing the part, but ultimately found the experience therapeutic.
A friend at college told Gabourey Sidibe about the open-call audition for the role of Precious. On the morning of the audition, her normal route to school was blocked by a film crew working on American Gangster (2007), so she went to the audition instead.
Before filming the scene in which Precious slaps Consuela for saying "F for Fat", Lee Daniels told Gabourey Sidibe to slap Angelic Zambrana as hard as she could while purposely not telling the other girls beforehand. In the film, the reactions from the girls in that scene after she does so is actually unrehearsed.
In the final confrontation scene, Mariah Carey was not directed to cry; rather, she was supposed to react with stone faced horror, just as Ms. Weiss does in the novel. However, Carey was so overpowered by the performances of Mo'Nique and Gabourey Sidibe, she broke down in tears and ducked her head away from the camera as not to ruin the scene. Director Lee Daniels loved Carey's natural reaction and kept the shot of her wiping her tears in the final cut.
In 1996, when the book upon which this movie is based was first published, it was titled "Push: A Novel." The film was likewise originally titled, "Push: Based on the Novel by Sapphire," but in February 2009, the movie title was changed to "Precious (Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire") to avoid confusion with the 2009 action film Push (2009). When the novel was republished in 2009, it was as a movie tie-in edition with cover art from the film, a common enough practice regarding books that have been turned into movies. What is unusual about the movie tie-in version of the book is that the book's title had also been changed to the movie's--which means that the book is now called "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," even though it *is* the novel 'Push' by Sapphire.
Over the course of the shoot the production lost an editor, a cinematographer, three continuity people, three locations managers, two producers, two assistant directors, two sound people, two video playback people, and two caterers.
In one of her meetings with her social worker, played by Mariah Carey, Precious asks "What color are you anyway, you some type of Black or Spanish?" Carey, who is of mixed ancestry (Irish, Black, Venezuelan), is often the subject of "what is she" speculation and discussion.
The film was produced independently by Lee Daniels Entertainment, and the completed film was caught in a battle between potential distributors The Weinstein Company and Lionsgate after its initial success at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions and Tyler Perry's 34th Street Films signed on to lend promotional assistance to the production, and Perry's existing relationship with Lionsgate helped land the film a release through that distributor.
Oprah Winfrey said that when she saw the movie, it "split [her] open", and that she immediately called Tyler Perry who gave her Lee Daniels' number, so that she could call him and tell him she would do anything to promote the film. When she called him, he was onstage getting an award at the Sundance Film Festival. Oprah later stated that this film was why "we make movies", and that she thought people might not "enjoy", but would "appreciate this experience".
Helen Mirren was originally cast as Mrs. Weiss, but dropped out. Mariah Carey was chosen as a replacement by director Lee Daniels only two days before the film went into production. Daniels has stated that he chose Carey based on her performance in Tennessee (2008), which he produced.
In one of Precious' fantasies, she is shooting a commercial and we see a clapper. The names on the clapper indicating the director and cinematographer are Lee Daniels and Andrew Dunn, who are the film's director and cinematographer.
The film's opening credits mirror its main character's illiteracy by misspelling the title, which is given as "Precious (Base on Nol by Saf)" with the correction "(Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire)" underneath.
In one scene, an April, 1987 issue of "Andy Warhol's Interview" magazine is displayed on Miss Rain's desk. The issue features Lisa Bonet on the cover. Soon after doing that cover, Bonet would marry Lenny Kravitz, who plays Nurse John.