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Lee Daniels Interview -Shadowboxer

3BlackChicks Review™... Sisterhood - The Interviews (The Diva)

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The Diva's interview with

Lee Daniels
Director of Shadowboxer (2005)

Shadowboxer will be released on DVD on November 7th. In support of its release, I was fortunate enough to speak with Lee Daniels. Lee Daniels is man who brought us Monster's Ball and the Woodsman. All three of these movies are a little unconventional and deal with some serious topics, this is why I'm in awe of Mr. Daniels. But this is not why I'm intimidated by Mr. Daniels. I've read the comments attributed to him and, if they are accurate, he can be vicious. Mind you, I've never done anything that would cause him to lash out at me, however it seemed to me that he was a bit of a prima donna - for lack of a better term. It turns out that I had nothing to worry about.

The Lee Daniels that I spoke with comes across as a kind man who is passionate about life and his work. He is also very sensitive and reflective. All of which have given him some slow healing wounds. Most importantly, if I learned anything about Lee Daniels it's that good or bad, you are going to get the truth from him: “It is a shame that in this society you can not be free to be who you are. 20% of those inflicted with AIDS are African American women and not all of them Gay. There are a lot of men on the downlow because society makes them feel like this is the only way the can be and black women are being killed because of it – that’s f*cked up.”

This candor that I speak of hit me square in the forehead when I asked how he was doing almost a year after the 46 year-old had a heart attack and if it was clogged arteries or something undetected." I'm fine, but I hate not being able to push the way I used to push. It was a mortality check. I'm used to juggling everything and working 16-18 hours a day. But now I work up until I'm tired, about 9 hours. I also gave up smoking and doing drugs." Well then. 16-18 hours a day.. I would imagine that drive is what allowed him to start a company at the tender age of 20 that he eventually sold for millions. How does one at 20, have the wherewithal to start a successful company? Al Lee puts it, it's all about the ability to sale, "my uncle was a pimp watching that, enabled my sales skills. Selling is what I knew, but I didn't want to sell women or drugs. I started selling Nurses. This was the 80s when AIDS first hit. I went from 5 nurses to 500 and not that I wanted to, I made a lot of money. Then I started selling actors.

..."Not that I wanted to" I understand what he meant, no one wanted to capitalize on the tragedy of AIDS. Maybe he ran away from it, I don't know, but he quickly thereafter sold his company. " I started taking care of a Producer who worked for Prince and admittedly, I came through a back door - a non traditional way. I sold my agency and I was financially comfortable so I was able to work for free or close to nothing while I learned and I found that my niche was casting.” He laughingly adds that he got fired a lot during, but this bouncing from job to job also meant that he was able to meet lots of actors and again found his comfort zone in selling. He started managing actors, it was exciting for him and I can imagine so, with clients like Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank, Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Marianne Jean- Baptiste - to name a few. Unfortunately, the shine wore off after Marianne's Oscar nomination. " I couldn't do it anymore. I could not continue to try to explain to my black actors that there just wasn't any work out there for them. This hurt me. Not financially, but I had no problem finding suitable work for my white talent who had nominations, but not my black talent. They get nominated for an Oscar and the roles were not there. This makes me sad to hear that my suspicions on this matter where spot on. One of the things I've done is BegMonster's Ball and he had to hustle to get it made. The rest is history.

Nominations abound and a historic win for Halle Berry. What should have been the time of his life, was wracked with heartache. This is something that I could just not fathom, but after his explanation, I was given yet layer to pull back and examine and what I saw is a man who for all his bravado and dedication to the truth, he is really a sensitive man who takes to heart what is said about his work and thusly the criticism of "Monster's Ball" devastated him. "I made Monster's Ball for my friends and my cousins. I rely on their opinion. I don't give a F**k about Hollywood. But my friends and family didn't get it and that hurt. My mother and aunts want my work to be more like Tyler Perry's. I love Tyler, but I'm not in his world. I want to bring a different type of experience to the screen. A freshness that we never see. I mean really, I knew Leticia (Halle's character) - I knew her. I knew her truth. The same with Shadowboxer Some people aren't going to like it, but I'm okay with that. I love it because its my journey.

Developed by Francis Doody

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