Lee Louis Daniels (born December 24, 1959) is an American producer,
director and writer. He produced
Monster's Ball and directed Precious,
which received six
Academy Award nominations, including Best Director;
it won two of the awards.
In 2012, Daniels directed The Butler, a historical fiction drama
featuring an ensemble cast portraying unique events on the 20th
century presidents of the United States at the White House. Daniels is
also a co-creator, executive producer, and director of the television
series Empire and Star, which debuted in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
1 Early life
4 Personal life
7 External links
Lee Louis Daniels was born on December 24, 1959 in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, the son of Clara Watson and William L. Daniels.
Daniels' younger sister Leah is a casting director. He graduated
Radnor High School
Radnor High School in 1978, and then
Lindenwood University in
St. Charles, Missouri.
Daniels couldn't afford film school, so he started in a liberal arts
college in Missouri but realized it wasn't for him, and started
working as a receptionist in a nursing agency in California. Realizing
he could do it on his own, he quit the job and started his own agency.
He sold the company and went to work casting actors using his skills
from "casting" nurses.
Daniels began his career in entertainment as a casting director and
manager after a chance meeting with a Hollywood producer, working on
such projects as
Under the Cherry Moon
Under the Cherry Moon and Purple Rain. He continued
managing talent. The documentary
My Big Break
My Big Break features Daniels early
in his career when he was managing actor Wes Bentley, who starred as
Ricky Fitts in American Beauty. In the documentary, Daniels comments
on Bentley's reluctance to capitalize on his newfound celebrity
Philadelphia police officer William, was, as Daniels
says, "killed in the line of duty" when Daniels was a teenager in
1975. Daniels has been very open about his father being
physically abusive towards him, and even trying "to beat it [being
gay] out of me".
Monster's Ball, the debut production of
Lee Daniels Entertainment, was
a critical and box office success.
Halle Berry won the Oscar for Best
Actress; the film was also nominated for Best Original Screenplay.
Daniels' 2004 production The Woodsman, starring Kevin Bacon, Kyra
Sedgwick and Mos Def, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. It
went on to garner three nominations at the 2005 Independent Spirit
Awards, the CICAE Arthouse Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Jury
Prize at the Deauville International Film Festival and a "Special
Mention for Excellence in Filmmaking" award from the National Board of
Daniels at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival.
Bill Clinton persuaded Daniels to produce public
service announcements to encourage young people of color to vote. The
campaign was launched in March 2004 and featured Grammy winners
LL Cool J
LL Cool J and Alicia Keys.
Daniels' first directorial effort, 2006's Shadowboxer, debuted at the
Toronto International Film Festival. It starred Helen Mirren, Cuba
Gooding, Jr., Stephen Dorff, Vanessa Ferlito, Mo'Nique, Joseph
Gordon-Levitt and Macy Gray. It was nominated for Best New
Director at the San Sebastian Film Festival.
Daniels' 2008 production Tennessee was written by Russell Schaumberg
and directed by Aaron Woodley (Rhinoceros Eyes), the film is about two
brothers, played by Adam Rothenberg and Ethan Peck, who travel from
New Mexico to Tennessee to search for their estranged father. Along
the way they meet Krystal (Mariah Carey), an aspiring singer who flees
her controlling husband (Lance Reddick) to join them on their
His 2009 film Precious told the story of an obese, illiterate,
16-year-old girl (Gabourey Sidibe) who lives in a Section 8 tenement
in Harlem. She has been impregnated twice by her father, Carl, and
suffers long-term physical, sexual and emotional abuse from her
unemployed mother, Mary (Mo'Nique). Carey appeared as a social worker.
The film screened at the 2009
Sundance Film Festival
Sundance Film Festival and went on to
garner widespread acclaim.
Daniels was nominated for the
Academy Award for Best Director, and the
film received a Best Picture nomination. It was a financial success
grossing $63 million worldwide against a budget of $10 million.
Grace Hightower De Niro, who appeared in Precious, presented
Daniels with the Pratt Institute's Creative Spirit Award.
Daniels directed The Paperboy (2012), based on the 1995 novel by
Pete Dexter who penned the original script which was
further developed by Daniels, and starring Matthew McConaughey, Zac
Efron, John Cusack, and Nicole Kidman. The film competed for the Palme
d'Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
He directed the historical fiction drama film
The Butler (2013),
starring Forest Whitaker, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Mariah Carey,
Terrence Howard, Alan Rickman, and Oprah Winfrey.
The Butler received
positive reviews from critics and grossed over a $100 million in the
United States against a budget of $30 million.
Empire, a television series created by Daniels, premiered on January
7, 2015. Daniels directed the first episode and co-wrote it with The
Butler screenwriter Danny Strong. The series stars
Terrence Howard and
Taraji P. Henson, and is about a family's music empire.[citation
In 2015, Daniels was listed as one of the nine runners-up for The
Advocate's Person of the Year.
In June 2016, the
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights Campaign released a video in tribute to
the victims of the 2016 Orlando gay nightclub shooting; in the video,
Daniels and others told the stories of the people killed
On December 2, 2016, Daniels received a star on the Hollywood Walk of
Fame for his contributions to the television industry.
On February 8, 2018, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research paid
tribute to Daniels at their 20th annual amfAR Gala New York at
Cipriani Wall Street. Award-winning actress, singer, and songwriter
Queen Latifah presented
Lee Daniels with the amfAR Award of Courage,
describing his past work with HIV/AIDS patients. She also shared that
as a gifted creative force, he creates “unfailingly human”
characters, who are “often striving to rise above difficult
circumstances.” In his acceptance speech,
Lee Daniels spoke about a
generation lost to AIDS, and said that the crisis had taken at least
40 of his personal friends. In the fight against AIDS, he said it is
important to “step up when it matters.”
On September 16, 2015, Daniels was asked about actor Terrence Howard
saying that his first wife "was talking to me real strong, and I lost
my mind and slapped her in front of the kids" and that he got physical
with his second wife too in a September 2015 Rolling Stone
interview. Daniels excused the domestic violence and called Howard
"that poor boy." Then he said that Howard hasn’t done anything that
Sean Penn hasn’t done. A week later, Daniels was sued by Penn in
a $10 million defamation lawsuit. The lawsuit states that "Daniels
falsely equates Penn with Howard...Penn (unlike Howard) has never been
arrested, much less convicted, for domestic violence, as his ex-wives
(including Madonna) would confirm and attest." Penn
dropped the lawsuit in May 2016 after Daniels retracted his statement
Daniels with his nephew and niece at the 2007 world premiere of
Daniels lives in Manhattan. He is openly gay. He and his
then-partner, casting director Billy Hopkins, adopted Daniels'
biological niece and nephew, Clara and Liam.
Hopkins and Daniels later separated.
In 2015, Daniels clarified his sexuality by stating that despite being
gay men, both he and "Empire" actor
Jussie Smollett are sexually
Jussie and I both share the same feeling that, yes, even though we are
gay, we’re sexual human beings...And we do occasionally want to
sleep with a woman. [Laughs] Maybe once every 10 or 15 years, but it
happens! And there are a lot of people who don’t want to hear about
that. It’s such a complicated conversation. It's not necessarily the
body one is attracted to. You can be sexually attracted to the spirit,
the energy, the life force in another person. We're showing life on
Empire, and I won't apologize for it.
A Little Off Mark
Agnes und seine Brüder
Lee Daniels' The Butler
Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?
Co-creator, executive producer, director, writer
Co-creator, executive producer, director, writer
My Big Break
The Black List: Volume 3
Lee Daniels biography". TV Guide. Retrieved March 17, 2014.
^ "Lee Daniels: Biography from Answers. com". Answers Corporation.
Retrieved August 21, 2013.
^ "Leah Daniels profile". IMDb.com. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
^ "Radnor Alumni Council/Notable Radnor Alumni". Schoolwires, Inc.
Retrieved August 21, 2013.
^ Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. "Lee Louis Daniels: Biography". Gale
Contemporary Black Biography. Retrieved September 3, 2007.
^ "Iconoclasts (2005– ) : Lenny Kravitz and Lee Daniels".
IMDb.com. Retrieved 2016-12-03.
^ Fresh Air from WHYY. "A Director's 'Precious' Project". NPR.
Retrieved August 21, 2012.
^ "Out100: Lee Daniels". out.com. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
^ "Reflections for Corporal William L. Daniels..." Officer Down
Memorial Page. The Officer Down Memorial Page, Inc. Retrieved August
^ "'Precious' Director
Lee Daniels Says His Dad Tried Beating The Gay
Out of Him And He Loves Him For It!". Moguldom Media Group. Retrieved
August 21, 2013.
^ "Exclusive: Precious Director Lee Daniels". comingsoon.ne. October
30, 2009. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
^ "The Woodsman". boxoffice.com. December 24, 2004. Retrieved
September 20, 2013.
^ "The Woodsman (2004)". New York Times. Retrieved September 20,
Lee Daniels on 'The Butler', Working with Oprah, Trayvon Martin,
and Race in America". Daily Beast. August 12, 2013. Retrieved
September 20, 2013.
^ "In 'Shadowboxer,' Murder Runs in the Family (and It's a Turn-On in
a Lover)". The New York Times. July 21, 2006. Retrieved September 20,
^ "ShadowBoxer". sansebastianfestival.com. Retrieved September 20,
Lee Daniels Explains Why 'Mariah Got The Role Meant for Janet
Jackson'". June 14, 2009. Archived from the original on September 21,
2013. Retrieved September 20, 2013.
^ McCarthy, Todd (December 3, 2008). "Sundance unveils competition
lineup". Variety. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
^ "Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire". Box office mojo.
Retrieved September 20, 2013.
^ 20th Anniversary of Black Alumni of Pratt: A Celebration of the
Creative Spirit, Events, Black Tie International, May 26, 2010.
^ "2012 Official Selection". Cannes. Retrieved April 19, 2012.
Cannes Film Festival
Cannes Film Festival 2012 line-up announced". timeout.com.
Retrieved April 19, 2012.
^ "Lee Daniels' The Butler". Metacritic. Retrieved September 20,
^ Advocate.com Editors. "Person of the Year: The Finalists".
Advocate.com. Retrieved 2015-11-06. CS1 maint: Extra text:
authors list (link)
^ "49 Celebrities Honor 49 Victims of Orlando Tragedy". Hrc.org.
^ Rothaus, Steve (June 12, 2016). "Pulse Orlando shooting scene a
popular LGBT club where employees, patrons 'like family'". The Miami
Herald. Retrieved June 15, 2016.
^ "'Empire' producer
Lee Daniels receives Hollywood Walk of Fame
star". Los Angeles Daily News. December 2, 2016. Retrieved December 7,
^ "amfAR :: In The Spotlight :: LEE DANIELS AND STEFANO
TONCHI HONORED AT ANNUAL FASHION WEEK amfAR GALA NEW YORK :: The
Foundation for AIDS Research :: HIV / AIDS Research".
www.amfar.org. Retrieved 2018-04-05.
^ Hedegaard, Erik (2015-09-14). "Page 5 of Terrence Howard's Dangerous
Mind". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
^ "'Empire's' "Batshit Crazy" Behind-the-Scenes Drama: On the Set of
TV's Hottest Show". Hollywood Reporter. 2015-09-16. Retrieved
Sean Penn files $10 million suit against Lee Daniels". CNN.com.
2015-09-23. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
^ Eriq Gardner (2015-09-22). "
Sean Penn Files $10 Million Defamation
Lawsuit Against 'Empire' Co-Creator Lee Daniels". Hollywood Reporter.
^ "Sean Penn". Documentcloud.org. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
^ Gardner, Eriq. "
Sean Penn Wins Apology from
Lee Daniels in
Defamation Settlement". Retrieved September 28, 2016.
Lee Daniels came out as gay man 'because I loathed my dad so
much'". NY Daily News. 2013-11-14. Retrieved 2015-11-06.
^ Boykin, Kieth (March 29, 2006). "Shadowboxing with Lee Daniels".
keithboykin.com. Archived from the original on August 5, 2007.
Retrieved August 2, 2007.
^ Lynn Hirschberg (October 21, 2009). "The Audacity of 'Precious'".
The New York Times. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
^ "The Love Issue - Love and Protection - Lee Daniels, Filmmaker and
Jahil Fisher, Stylist". Out.com. January 12, 2015. Retrieved December
^ "Empire Sex Scandal:
Lee Daniels and
Jussie Smollett Defend That
Shocking Hook-Up". TV Insider. Retrieved 2017-07-28.
^ "Lee Daniels' Richard Pryor biopic to star Mike Epps". BBC News.com.
Retrieved August 28, 2014.
^ Marc Maron (September 18, 2017). "Episode 847 - Lee Daniels".
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Lee Daniels.
Lee Daniels Entertainment website
Lee Daniels on IMDb
Gay Life biography
The Paperboy (2012)
The Butler (2013)
Monster's Ball (2001)
The Woodsman (2004)
The Paperboy (2012)
Independent Spirit Award for Best Director
Joel Coen /
Martin Scorsese (1985)
Oliver Stone (1986)
John Huston (1987)
Ramon Menendez (1988)
Steven Soderbergh (1989)
Charles Burnett (1990)
Martha Coolidge (1991)
Carl Franklin (1992)
Robert Altman (1993)
Quentin Tarantino (1994)
Mike Figgis (1995)
Joel Coen (1996)
Robert Duvall (1997)
Wes Anderson (1998)
Alexander Payne (1999)
Ang Lee (2000)
Christopher Nolan (2001)
Todd Haynes (2002)
Sofia Coppola (2003)
Alexander Payne (2004)
Ang Lee (2005)
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris
Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (2006)
Julian Schnabel (2007)
Tom McCarthy (2008)
Lee Daniels (2009)
Darren Aronofsky (2010)
Michel Hazanavicius (2011)
David O. Russell
David O. Russell (2012)
Steve McQueen (2013)
Richard Linklater (2014)
Tom McCarthy (2015)
Barry Jenkins (2016)
Jordan Peele (2017)
Black Reel Award for Outstanding Director
Malcolm D. Lee (2000)
Gina Prince-Bythewood (2001)
Antoine Fuqua (2002)
Denzel Washington (2003)
F. Gary Gray
F. Gary Gray (2004)
Mario Van Peebles
Mario Van Peebles (2005)
Thomas Carter (2006)
Spike Lee (2007)
Gina Prince-Bythewood (2008)
no awards in 2009
Lee Daniels (2010)
Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes (2011)
Steve McQueen (2012)
Ava DuVernay (2013)
Steve McQueen (2014)
Ava DuVernay (2015)
Ryan Coogler (2016)
Barry Jenkins (2017)
Jordan Peele (2018)
ISNI: 0000 0001 1779 2989