Lee Daniels

Lee Daniels
Photo: amfAR

Lee Daniels is an Academy Award-winning filmmaker whose work is characterized by authenticity and candor. His production company, Lee Daniels Entertainment, had its feature film debut with Monster’s Ball, which made Daniels the sole African-American producer of an Oscar-winning film. Daniels then produced The Woodsman, which received the CICAE Arthouse Prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Jury Prize at the Deauville International Film Festival. Shadowboxer marked his directorial debut, and led to a New Directors Award nomination at the 2006 San Sebastian Film Festival.

Daniels is perhaps best known for Precious, a movie adapted from the bestselling novel Push by Sapphire (a.k.a. Ramona Lofton). Precious won two Academy Awards and was nominated for six. It won both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and it garnered six NAACP Image Awards and five 2010 Independent Spirit Awards, including “Best Feature” and “Best Director.”

In 2013 Daniels released the critically acclaimed box office smash Lee Daniels’ The Butler, an epic drama about Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), an African-American butler who served at the White House during seven presidential administrations between 1957 and 1986. The film held the number-one box office spot for three consecutive weeks and has grossed over $175 million.

Daniels’ most recent work includes the hit television series Empire, set in the world of hip-hop. The show premiered in 2015 on Fox television and broke ratings records during its first season. His second television series Star centers around a musical group in Atlanta and stars Queen Latifah and Benjamin Bratt.

Daniels is a passionate advocate and philanthropist. He sits on numerous boards, including that of Ghetto Film School, a nonprofit that helps to develop the next generation of great American storytellers. He is a longtime LGBT activist, and since the earliest days of the epidemic has been an HIV/AIDS activist. Before his career in filmmaking, he ran the first nursing agency under contract with AIDS Project Los Angeles, taking care of people with HIV. On World AIDS Day 2016, he was honored with the Heroes in the Struggle Award from the Black AIDS Institute.