Known for movies

Short Info

Net Worth$5 million
Date Of BirthDecember 24, 1959
MarkOften casts musicians
FactHas four younger brothers.

Lee Daniels is an American film and television producer, director, and screenwriter. He is the co-creator, executive producer, and director of the Fox musical drama series Empire. Daniels is also a producer of the Academy Award-winning film Monster’s Ball and the Lee Daniels’ The Butler.

Daniels was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on December 24, 1959, the son of Clara Watson and William L. Daniels, a police officer. He has three sisters, Denise, Jacqueline, and Lois. Daniels graduated from Radnor High School in 1978. He then attended Lindenwood College in St. Charles, Missouri, on a football scholarship before transferring to the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts.

Daniels began his career in the entertainment industry as a casting director for such films as Ragtime (1981) and The Cotton Club (1984). He made his directorial debut with the 1993 film Mississippi Masala. His other films include The Woodsman (2004), Precious (2009), The Paperboy (2012), and Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013).

Daniels has been nominated for two Academy Awards, winning one for Best Picture for Monster’s Ball (2001). He has also been nominated for three Golden Globe Awards and four Emmy Awards.

Daniels is openly gay. He was in a relationship with actor Terrence Howard from 2008 to 2009. In January 2014, Daniels announced that he was engaged to his partner, businessman Jahil Fisher.

General Info

Full NameLee Daniels
Net Worth$5 million
Date Of BirthDecember 24, 1959
ProfessionScreenwriter, Film producer, Film director, Actor
EducationLindenwood University


ChildrenClara Daniels, Liam Daniels
ParentsWilliam Daniels, Clara Watson
SiblingsLeah Daniels


AwardsIndependent Spirit Award for Best Feature, Independent Spirit Award for Best Director, The BET Honors Television and Film Award, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a Motion Picture, GLAAD Media Davidson/Valentini Award, Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize - U.S. Dramatic, Producers G...
NominationsAcademy Award for Best Picture, Academy Award for Best Director, Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Director, Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature, BAFTA Award for Best Film, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Dramatic Series, NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Directing in a...
MoviesThe Butler, The Paperboy, Precious, Tennessee, Shadowboxer, Agnes and His Brothers, The Woodsman, Monster's Ball
TV ShowsEmpire, Star

Social profile links


#Marks / Signs
1Often casts musicians


1When I finished "Monster's Ball," people were offering me $2 million to produce one project, $1 million for another; but the stories didn't place persons of color in roles in a positive way. I don't have to have messages in my films, but I have two kids, and it's important to me not to sell out. New York is very expensive, and I need the money, but I felt that if, on my way, I can continue to tell the truth, then ultimately my kids would be proud of me.
2Oprah was a producer on Precious (2009) and we were looking for things to do. I sent her something that was my version of a black Misery (1990) where she plays this serial killer. And Oprah said, 'Are you bonkers?' That didn't work, so we developed this role [in The Butler (2013)].
3[re showing dignity of black servants] I come from a family of domestics. I think most African-Americans of my age do. They were trusted by their bosses. I have met so many white people that spent more time with their nannies than they have with their own parents.
4[on the editing process] You know what happens? ...The miracles happen through the accidents. I'll give you an example: I made a mistake at Cannes and shouldn't have said this, but this guy was irritating me. He was making such a big deal about Zac Efron in his underwear [in The Paperboy (2012)] and I was, like, fuck'. I had every character based on somebody I know. When the guy asked why I have Zac in his underwear, I said, "Because I'm a gay and I like it." I just thought the question was so stupid. Then I realized I shouldn't have said that, since that isn't the truth. The truth is, as a kid, my mother used to always say, "Why are you always in your underwear? Why are you always walking around in your underwear?" She slapped my head and told me to put some clothes on. Of course, I didn't look like Zac Efron, but that part of movie was on the screen, except without the Efron body. When he goes out and dances in the rain, that was an accident. It rained that day, and it was Nicole's last day. When you're making an independent film, your time is money, and you ain't got money. God told me to put some music on during the scene, so I put my iPod on, picked some songs of the period, and told them to dance after the scene. That's just how it happened. It was the most beautiful, pure moment in the film. The accidents are the miracles.
5[on actors and how he works with them] I love these actors [on The Paperboy (2012)], and we're very close. Matthew McConaughey just came to visit me on the set of "The Butler," and it was cathartic. I sort of wept in his arms, because I'm so proud of him and his work. You know, I'm in Butler world creating magic, or a painting, or whatever the fuck it is! When Matthew came to visit, I told him he surprised me and that he did it. Heath Ledger came to visit me on the set of "Precious," and I did sort of the same thing. I love actors, and I'm very protective of them. I trust them. It's a mutual trust. It's not just them trusting me. We don't rehearse. I never say, "Okay, let's go through this scene. Here's the character's motivation and blah, blah, blah!" We talk. They get to know me. They get to know about my weaknesses, my past, and my battles with drugs over the years. We talk about sex, rock 'n' roll, food, and literature. We know who the characters are, because they're already written. It's about getting to know you and to really become friends, so we can make magic. That only comes from knowing each other. By the time I'm ready to yell "action," we know each other so well. We just go for it.
6[on how he responds to criticism of his films] I think that they don't get it. It's like a Democrat or a Republican or a poor person or a rich person, in that you understand this world or you don't understand this world. If you don't, then that's okay! Look, my own mother doesn't like my movies [Laughs]. I'm okay with it, because you're entitled to your own opinion.
7When I make movies, I don't ever go out there to please anyone other than myself. I never try to make a film for the masses. I just try to tell my story. Here's the thing: I think the media underestimates the intelligence of the moviegoer. We need to be fulfilled. People want to sit down and think, and I try to make people think.
8[on what he associates with a Lee Daniels film] That you always find truth. Some people call my style shocking, but I don't know what the hell that means. You can't throw a dart at any of the actors, because they'll always bring their A-game with me. You know, that's what bothers me a little bit. When people don't like the film, I can take a bullet. I don't mind you talking about me, but I'm protective of my actors, because they bared their soul for me. I can't take it when they attack an actor for his or her work, because I think that stops them from being unafraid for their next director or their next piece of work.
9[on how much the commercial prospects of a project play into what he decides to make] Of course it does. When you have two kids about to go to college, you have to say it is a business. Unfortunately, I think my artist supersedes that [Laughs]. It's a problem when your artist supersedes your brain! I end up going with what my gut and spirit tell me.
10I was always intrigued with European cinema, and hated most American cinema. I didn't like the one, two, three-boom! style, with a neat and tidy ending. That was never my scene.
11[on making Precious (2009)]: There wasn't the name game where you have to have this person or that person, and this person equals this amount of money, and that person means it will sell foreign. It was, 'You have X amount of dollars,' __I think we started at $8 million--and 'go with God.'
12I can't embrace anything unless I can identify with the world. I think what made Precious (2009) so true is that, down to the wallpaper, I worked from a snapshot of the room that I grew up in, the hallway I grew up in. I knew exactly where the paint was going to chip from the wall. Whether or not I'll be able to capture that detail and that truth again, I don't know.
13My roots, my DNA , what I know is what it's like to live as an African-American and as a gay man. And I think trying to marry myself, ad stories that speak to me, to the studio world has been hard. They want Precious (2009), they want another something like that, but they're afraid.


1Revealed that his father was physically abusive and that he didn't approve of Daniels' homosexuality.
2His father, William Daniels, was a police officer in Philadelphia, who was killed in the line of duty. He died when Lee Daniels was 13.
3Directed two Oscar nominated performances: Gabourey Sidibe and Mo'Nique. Mo'Nique won for her performance in Precious (2009).
4Made his directorial debut at the age of 45.
5Was given the novel "Push", which his movie Precious (2009) is based upon, by Ally Sheedy's mother, Charlotte Sheedy, who is a literary agent.
6His younger sister is casting director Leah Daniels Butler.
7Worked as casting agent and manager since the '80s. Among his clients were Nastassja Kinski and Wes Bentley.
8He and Billy Hopkins ended their relationship in 2009. They share custody of their children Clara and Liam.
9Has four younger brothers.
10Boyfriend since 2009 is Andy Sforzini, an actuary at Prudential Life Insurance.
11Suffered a heart attack when he went for a run in the mid-2000s.
12Good friends with Mariah Carey.
13First African-American to direct a Best Picture Oscar nominee (Precious (2009)).
14Second African-American to be nominated for an Oscar® for Best Director (for Precious (2009)).
15The second African-American to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars(Precious (2009)).
16Raised twins Clara and Liam, who are biologically his niece and nephew, as his own children since they were three days old in the mid-1990s. They were born to his brother and his girlfriend, and were adopted by Daniels and his then-boyfriend, Billy Hopkins (who is also his casting director).




Star2016TV Movie filming
EmpireTV Series created by - 37 episodes, 2015 - 2016 written by - 2 episodes, 2015 - 2016
The Paperboy2012screenplay by


Star2016TV Movie executive producer filming
Empire2015-2016TV Series executive producer - 27 episodes
The Butler2013/Iproducer
The Paperboy2012producer
The Woodsman2004producer
Monster's Ball2001producer


Star2016TV Movie filming
Richard Pryor: Is It Something I Said?announced
Empire2015TV Series 3 episodes
The Butler2013/I
The Paperboy2012


Empire2015TV SeriesLee Daniels
The Paperboy2012Bartender (uncredited)
Shadowboxer2005Man in Steam Room
Agnes and His Brothers2004Henry Preminger
A Little Off Mark1986ShortSteve, Mark's best friend


BlackBox: Saturation of the Implication2018grateful acknowledgment post-production
Alone: The Only Thing to Fear Is Yourself2016grateful acknowledgment
Blip Festival: Reformat the Planet2008Documentary thanks
Grand Theft Parsons2003special thanks


Talk Stoop with Cat Greenleaf2015-2016TV SeriesHimself
Essence Ninth Annual Black Women in Hollywood2016TV MovieHimself
The 47th NAACP Image Awards2016TV MovieHimself
Michael Jackson's Journey from Motown to Off the Wall2016DocumentaryHimself
The View2015TV SeriesHimself
Close Up with the Hollywood Reporter2015TV SeriesHimself
Entertainment Tonight2008-2015TV SeriesHimself / Himself - Creator, Empire / Himself - Exec Producer, Empire
The Insider2015TV SeriesHimself
Late Night with Seth Meyers2015TV SeriesHimself
The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore2015TV SeriesHimself - Panelist
Liberatum Inspiring Creativity2014ShortHimself
28 Men of Change2014TV MovieHimself
E! Live from the Red Carpet2014TV SeriesHimself
The Arsenio Hall Show2014TV SeriesHimself - Guest
The Hollywood Reporter Roundtables2013TV SeriesHimself
Made in Hollywood2013TV SeriesHimself
Larry King Now2013TV SeriesHimself - Guest
Oprah's Next Chapter2013TV SeriesHimself
Charlie Rose2006-2013TV SeriesHimself - Guest
Fatherhood 1012013DocumentaryHimself
Dann Firestorm: I Am Film2013TV Mini-SeriesHimself
Cinema 32010-2013TV SeriesHimself
Iconoclasts2010TV Series documentaryHimself
The Wendy Williams Show2010TV SeriesHimself
A Precious Ensemble2010Video documentary shortHimself
From Push to Precious2010Video documentary shortHimself
Oprah & Tyler: A Project of Passion2010Video documentary shortHimself
The 82nd Annual Academy Awards2010TV SpecialHimself - Nominee: Best Picture & Best Director
25th Film Independent Spirit Awards2010TV SpecialHimself
Moving Pictures Live!2010TV SeriesHimself
41st NAACP Image Awards2010TV SpecialHimself
The Oprah Winfrey Show2009-2010TV SeriesHimself
Xposé2010TV SeriesHimself
The Daily Show2010TV SeriesHimself
The Black List: Volume Three2010DocumentaryHimself
The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards2010TV SpecialHimself - Nominee: Best Motion Picture - Drama
15th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards2010TV SpecialHimself
In the House with Peter Bart & Peter Guber2009TV Series
Stockholms 20th International Film Festival2009TV MovieHimself
The Mo'Nique Show2009TV SeriesHimself
My Big Break2009DocumentaryHimself
Media City2008TV SeriesHimself
Indie Sex: Censored2007TV Movie documentaryHimself

Archive Footage

Entertainment Tonight2015-2016TV SeriesHimself
Ok! TV2015TV SeriesHimself
Inside Edition2015TV Series documentaryHimself
Live from Studio Five2010TV SeriesHimself


Won Awards

2014Hollywood AwardAcapulco Black Film FestivalMovie of the YearThe Butler (2013)
2013Hollywood Film AwardHollywood Film AwardsDirector of the YearThe Butler (2013)
2011Capri Social AwardCapri, Hollywood
2011CinEuphoriaCinEuphoria AwardsTop Ten of the Year - Audience AwardPrecious (2009)
2011CinEuphoriaCinEuphoria AwardsTop Ten of the Year - International CompetitionPrecious (2009)
2010AFI AwardAFI Awards, USAMovie of the YearPrecious (2009)
2010Career Achievement AwardAmerican Black Film Festival
2010Black ReelBlack Reel AwardsBest DirectorPrecious (2009)
2010Black ReelBlack Reel AwardsBest FilmPrecious (2009)
2010Davidson/Valentini AwardGLAAD Media Awards
2010Image AwardImage AwardsOutstanding Directing in a Motion Picture (Theatrical or Television)Precious (2009)
2010Independent Spirit AwardIndependent Spirit AwardsBest FeaturePrecious (2009)
2010Independent Spirit AwardIndependent Spirit AwardsBest DirectorPrecious (2009)
2010Stanley Kramer AwardPGA AwardsPrecious (2009)
2009AAFCA AwardAfrican-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)Best DirectorPrecious (2009)
2009Artistic Achievement AwardChicago International Film Festival
2009Audience Choice AwardChicago International Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2009Russell Smith AwardDallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association AwardsPrecious (2009)
2009Jury Special PrizeDeauville Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2009Audience AwardHawaii International Film FestivalBest Narrative FeaturePrecious (2009)
2009Audience AwardSan Sebastián International Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2009TVE Otra Mirada AwardSan Sebastián International Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2009Audience Choice AwardSt. Louis International Film FestivalBest Feature FilmPrecious (2009)
2009FIPRESCI Prize - Honorable MentionStockholm Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2009Grand Jury PrizeSundance Film FestivalDramaticPrecious (2009)
2009Audience AwardSundance Film FestivalDramaticPrecious (2009)
2009People's Choice AwardToronto International Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2005Black ReelBlack Reel AwardsBest Independent FilmThe Woodsman (2004)
2002MECCA Movie AwardUrbanworld Film FestivalVisionary Award

Nominated Awards

2016Image AwardImage AwardsOutstanding Writing in a Dramatic SeriesEmpire (2015)
2016Image AwardImage AwardsOutstanding Directing in a Dramatic SeriesEmpire (2015)
2014Hollywood AwardAcapulco Black Film FestivalBest DirectorThe Butler (2013)
2014Black ReelBlack Reel AwardsOutstanding Motion PictureThe Butler (2013)
2014Black ReelBlack Reel AwardsOutstanding Director, Motion PictureThe Butler (2013)
2014Image AwardImage AwardsOutstanding Directing in a Motion PictureThe Butler (2013)
2013Best of PuchonPuchon International Fantastic Film FestivalThe Paperboy (2012)
2012Palme d'OrCannes Film FestivalThe Paperboy (2012)
2011RobertRobert FestivalBest American Film (Årets amerikanske film)Precious (2009)
2010OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Motion Picture of the YearPrecious (2009)
2010OscarAcademy Awards, USABest Achievement in DirectingPrecious (2009)
2010BAFTA Film AwardBAFTA AwardsBest FilmPrecious (2009)
2010Movies for Grownups AwardAARP Movies for Grownups AwardsBest DirectorPrecious (2009)
2010AmandaAmanda Awards, NorwayBest Foreign Feature Film (Årets utenlandske kinofilm)Precious (2009)
2010Critics Choice AwardBroadcast Film Critics Association AwardsBest DirectorPrecious (2009)
2010DGA AwardDirectors Guild of America, USAOutstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion PicturesPrecious (2009)
2010PGA AwardPGA AwardsOutstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion PicturesPrecious (2009)
2009EDA AwardAlliance of Women Film JournalistsBest PicturePrecious (2009)
2009ACCAAwards Circuit Community AwardsBest Motion PicturePrecious (2009)
2009Un Certain Regard AwardCannes Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2009Grand Special PrizeDeauville Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2009HFCS AwardHouston Film Critics Society AwardsBest DirectorPrecious (2009)
2009Satellite AwardSatellite AwardsBest DirectorPrecious (2009)
2009Bronze HorseStockholm Film FestivalPrecious (2009)
2009WAFCA AwardWashington DC Area Film Critics Association AwardsBest DirectorPrecious (2009)
2005Independent Spirit AwardIndependent Spirit AwardsBest First FeatureThe Woodsman (2004)
2002AFI AwardAFI Awards, USAMovie of the YearMonster's Ball (2001)

3rd Place Awards

2009DFWFCA AwardDallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association AwardsBest DirectorPrecious (2009)

Source: IMDb, Wikipedia

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