Daniels' Childhood (02:16)
Daniels discusses his favorite project, his upbringing, and his desire to tell stories from a young age. He grew up in West Philadelphia, the oldest of five kids.
Daniels' Family (02:43)
Daniels describes his father as being macho, a good writer, and violent. He expresses admiration for the women in his family, especially his grandmother. Ellen Langer, a professor of psychology at Harvard, elaborates on the emotional impact of growing up gay with a homophobic parent.
Father's Murder (02:04)
Daniels’ father was shot and killed during a robbery. Daniels’ mother encouraged his creative impulses, and he was influenced by blaxploitation films. He came out as gay to his college girlfriend and moved to Hollywood.
Early Hollywood Experiences (03:16)
Daniels was homeless when he arrived in Los Angeles. He got a job as a receptionist at a nursing agency before opening an agency of his own. His sister recalls him being more at ease in the presence of other gay men. However, the director lived a self-destructive lifestyle at the peak of the AIDS epidemic.
Hollywood Hustler (02:25)
At 24, Daniels met a producer through his nursing agency and landed a job as a production assistant on “Purple Rain.” He sold his company, and worked his way deeper into Hollywood. He worked in casting which allowed him to establish relationships with up-and-coming actors.
"Monster's Ball" (02:39)
Daniels became a legal guardian to his incarcerated brother’s kids. The responsibility forced him to abandon his reckless lifestyle. Thus refocused, Daniels produced the movie that earned Halle Berry the first Oscar ever awarded to a black woman.
Daniels directed the story of a dysfunctional, black family dealing with child abuse and AIDS. The film was a big hit at the Cannes Film Festival and received support from people like Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Daniels later directed the critically acclaimed film, “The Butler.”
Conquering TV (06:19)
“Two Broke Girls” co-creator Whitney Cummings inspired Daniels to venture into television. He developed “Empire” with Danny Strong, inspired by Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and his family. The music industry drama is a massive hit for Fox-TV. The director shares an amusing anecdote from the set of “The Butler.”
Credits: Lee Daniels (00:18)
Credits: Lee Daniels
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