When Philadelphia native Lee Daniels first arrived in Hollywood, he set to work making his fortune, but not in show business. He began working for a nursing agency and then at age 21, he founded his own. He would later sell the business for $2 million when he decided to get involved in movies, eventually becoming a producer on 2001's Monster's Ball. He would soon move into the director's chair, as well, producing and helming 2005's Shadowboxer. However, Daniels name truly lit up in 2009, when he directed and produced the critically acclaimed Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire. The heartwrenching tale of a girl overcoming poverty and abuse in 1980s Harlem would earn Daniels' Oscar nominations for Best Picture as well as Best Director. Daniels would henceforth remain a prolific director, helming projects like The Paperboy and The Butler.
Biography by Cammila Collar
- His father was a policeman who was gunned down in a bar while off duty in 1975.
- Moved to Hollywood after quitting college and worked as a receptionist for a nursing agency before successfully starting up a health-care agency of his own by the age of 22.
- Acting on the advice of a producer working for singer Prince, began a career as a music-video casting director.
- With his former partner Billy Hopkins, adopted the baby twins of his jail-bound brother when they were 3 days old.
- Formed production company Lee Daniels Entertainment in 1984; its first feature effort, Monster's Ball (2001), earned two Academy Award nominations, including a Best Actress win for Halle Berry.
- In 2004, produced public service announcements encouraging young people of color to vote.
- Directorial debut came with the crime thriller Shadowboxer (2005), a violent and sexually explicit film about professional assassins who are also lovers.
- The first African-American to receive a nod from the Director's Guild of America and only the second nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Director category for Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire (2009).