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'The Butler' New York Premiere - Outside Arrivals

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Lee Daniels shares a lot about his troubled youth in his much of his work — but that doesn’t stop him from sharing his stories directly with his fans.

In a recent interview with Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film & TV, the director and producer admitted that he once tried to commit suicide by contracting AIDS through unprotected sex with strangers at bathhouses. He explained, “It (AIDS) wiped away all of my friends. I had no friends… It was terrifying, because we never knew whether you could drink from glasses or what it was. It was the most terrifying thing ever. And I didn’t understand why it was that I wasn’t (dead), because there were far better souls than me that were going (dying). I thought that I needed to go. And so I descended into drugs and into sexual bathhouses to die. [The fact] that I don’t have AIDS is a miracle from God. I really don’t understand it. Everybody else did.”

Lee also reflected on a heartbreaking interaction he had with his father when he was just eight-years old, recalling to the crowd, “I walked down the stairs with high heels on, and he put me in the trashcan. I think that’s where Precious came from, because I remember the stench. I remember the dark, the cold, my mother trying to fight, and then me, thinking that I was Aladdin on a carpet escaping. And I think that’s why I so related to Precious. But that was just one of many times. I have no hate in my heart for my father at all. I think that he didn’t understand [Daniels being gay]. He completely didn’t understand and he knew that it was hard enough being a black man, and thought that if he scared it out of me, in hindsight, I think he thought that if he scared it out of me, that I wouldn’t be gay, because he just couldn’t imagine what my life would be.”

Fortunately for Daniels, out of the trauma came television and film gold, like Empire and Precious. See what else the star had to say in the clip above.


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