Lee Daniels

In his career as a casting agent, talent manager, film producer and director, Lee Daniels has been an ongoing champion of the "underdog," who expanded opportunities for actors of color and brought controversial stories of societal outcasts to the big screen. Daniels' calling card was dark, visceral, often violent material that offered a surprising flicker of hope in even the most hopeless of circumstances, best showcased in his role as the director of "Precious, Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire" (2009). Daniels made his directorial debut in 2006 with the gritty, not-so-well received crime drama "Shadowboxer" (2006), having made his breakout as the producer of "Monster's Ball" (2001), which earned a landmark Academy Award for Halle Berry as a widow who becomes involved with a hateful prison guard. Never afraid to explore the most demonized of subject matters, Daniels gravitated towards the complexities of hustlers and killers and even a pedophile in his critically acclaimed producing effort, "The Woodsman" (2004), starring Kevin Bacon. Sometimes Daniels' fearless attempts to make outsider characters more universally relatable missed the mark, and he caught some backlash over characters deemed unflattering and negative towards the African-American community, but Daniels' character-based approach to first-glance "unsavory" outcasts made him one of the most unique voices in independent film.