Openly gay director and producer Lee Daniels recently made history as only the second black director nominated for an Academy Award for the riveting Precious. The director talks to British magazine Attitude (pdf) about the "bumpy ride" of being a black out director in Hollywood.
As a black gay filmmaker, Lee Daniels has endured a bumpy ride to stardom. "For black men it can be tough, and as a black, gay man, it's even tougher," he tells me during the London Film Festival, where his heart-wrenching, Oscar-baiting drama Precious is lapping up serious critical acclaim. "Sometimes, when you're out it can make things much harder, because some people just don't want to listen to what you have to say. That can make it a tough struggle, but that probably drives me on in my work, and makes the work more honest."
Daniels' work includes a clutch of memorable films, many of which dance around sensitive subject
matter. As a producer, he's overseen the likes of Monster's Ball (2OO1), persuading Halle Berry to lose her clothes and ushering her towards that tear stained Oscar win, and lhe Woodsman (2005), inwhich Kevin Bacon plays a child-molester recently released from prison. As a director, Daniels has brought us the stylish drama Shadowboxer and now he's back with his second directorial offering Precious.
"You know, Shadowboxer was an important film for me, because it has a black gay voice," says Daniels. The film centres on a man, played by Cuba Gooding Jr, and his stepmother, Helen Mirren, who are contract killers and lovers. lt is not, however, a story about a black gay man. "True, but that film had a black gay director. And it has many elements that I think gay black men understood and connected with." He laughs. "Plus you get to see Stephen Dorff's penis swinging around!"
Daniels is raising two of his brother's children with his ex-partner. Daniels' brother, the biological father, abandoned the children and does not approve of Daniels' raising them. The director explains: "My brother hates it that it is me who's raising his kids. He's mortified by the fact that I'm gay."
The straight, biological father abandoned his children and is "mortified" his gay, Academy Award-nominated filmmaker brother is giving them a home. Priceless.
The entire profile is here (pdf).