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Film producer and director Lee Daniels is known for films that tackle thorny issues. Monster's Ball won and Oscar and was a $31 million success.
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Film producer, director. Born December 24, 1959, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Lee Daniels is known for his uncompromising work, producing films that tackle such thorny issues as race, image, family violence, and sex. Along the way he's shown that these stories can have success at the box office. 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.
Daniels was born far away from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. The oldest of five children born to Clara and William Daniels, Lee Daniels grew up in West Philadelphia. His dad, a cop who had once worked as a bodyguard for Muhammad Ali and was killed in a robbery when his oldest boy was just 12, could be hard on his children, especially Daniels, whose early signs of his homosexuality didn't exactly sit well with him.
But beyond the physical abuse William Daniels sometimes brought to the household, there was another side to him, one that centered on a deep appreciation for books and poetry. He had a passion for reading, and wrote his own short stories and poetry. "Anything artistic I got, I got from him," Daniels has said.
Despite the obvious strain William Daniels placed on his relationship with his children, Lee Daniels says he clearly loved his dad, and his shocking death was difficult to overcome, much less understand.
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, dropped out.
He packed up his things again and, with just $7 in his pocket a lot of ambition, moved to Los Angeles to make it as a writer. He didn't have much luck finding work in Hollywood, however. Instead, to make ends meet, Daniels took a job as a receptionist at a nursing agency. Within a short time, Daniels was part of management, then started his own nursing agency out of his home.
It wasn't what Daniels had moved out to Hollywood to do, but soon his five-person nursing staff had grown to 500 and he was heading up a company worth several million dollars. As it would be with his later film work, there was a bit of a pioneering spirit behind Daniels' healthcare career. In addition to working with the American Heart & Lung Associations and the American Sickle Cell Anemia Association, his company became the first of its kind in the country to land a contract with the AIDS Project Los Angeles.
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