Lee Daniels – Early Career, ‘Precious’ & ‘Empire’

Film producer and director Lee Daniels is known for films that tackle difficult subjects including racism, image and family violence.

Who Is Lee Daniels? 

Film producer and director Lee Daniels was born on December 24, 1959, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is known for producing films that tackle such thorny issues as race, image, family violence and sex. His critically acclaimed 2002 hit, Monster’s Ball, was not only an Oscar winner but turned a $2.5 million production into a $31 million success.

Early Life

Lee Daniels was born far away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. The oldest of five children born to Clara and William Daniels, Lee grew up in West Philadelphia. His father was a cop who once worked as a bodyguard for Muhammad Ali and was killed in a robbery when Lee’s older brother was 12-years-old. William Daniels was at times hard on his children, especially Lee, who displayed early signs of homosexuality that didn’t sit well with him.

After high school, Daniels headed off to St. Louis, Missouri, to attend the small liberal arts school, Lindenwood College. He wanted to study theater and film, but it wasn’t long before he grew frustrated with academics. Just before the start of his junior year, he dropped out.

But Daniels hadn’t completely abandoned his dream of working in Hollywood. By chance, a client of his was also a producer who had worked with Prince. The two started one Saturday morning, and Daniels told him he wanted to work in film. The producer told him he could help him find a job.

At 22, Daniels sold his agency, pocketed several millions of dollars, and started a new career as a production assistant. His focus soon became casting, and he eventually found himself working on big-name projects like Under the Cherry Moon and Purple Rain.

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