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Daniels, Lee (b. 1959)  
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Daniels was so impressed by Kassell's enthusiasm and by the excellence of her screenplay that he agreed to produce it if he could find investors in the project.

Although the success of Monster's Ball had briefly made Daniels the toast of Hollywood, with people "saying they'd do anything with me," when the money people found out that the project he wanted to do next was The Woodsman, "I was knocking on doors all over again."

Given the subject matter it was difficult to put together even the small budget an independent film required. Finally, he convinced hip-hop record producer Damon Dash to provide most of the financing.

Many actors turned down parts in the film, either because of the subject or because of the low pay. But fortuitously Kevin Bacon was asked to read the script by a friend who had been approached by Daniels as a potential investor. Bacon was so taken with the script that he contacted Daniels and offered to play the lead role.

Daniels suggested that Bacon's wife, Kyra Sedgwick, would be perfect for the role of the tough but tender woman who befriends the child molester when he is released from prison. Although Bacon and Sedgwick usually reject opportunities to act with each other, in this instance they accepted.

The film, released just after California placed its sex offender registry online in response to widespread concern about child molesters possibly living next door to potential victims, presents the struggle of a pedophile to put his life together after twelve years in prison.

The character is presented sympathetically, but neither he nor his predicament is sentimentalized. He is not a monster, but he does face temptations, which are not minimized or glossed over. The film is thoughtful, disturbing, and suspenseful.

Featuring superb performances by Bacon and Sedgwick, and by hip-hop artist Mos Def as a parole officer, the film, which debuted at the Sundance festival, received very positive reviews and earned a number of awards and nominations from film festivals and independent film organizations. It is one of the finest independent movies of the decade.

In 2004, Daniels also produced a series of public service announcements aimed at convincing young people of color to take part in the electoral process. He worked with former President Bill Clinton, rap artist LL Cool J, and singer Alicia Keyes, among others.

For his next project, Shadowboxer (2006), Daniels became a director as well as a producer. As he explained to Corey Boultier, the transition to director was facilitated by his experience working with actors as a casting director, talent manager, and producer. In addition, his tendency to micromanage his projects from his position as producer meant that he learned a great deal from the directors with whom he worked.

Moreover, he was weary of producing. He told Hirschberg, "I was tired of creating monster movie-star directors. I was stuck with, How am I going to find my next $2 million to make my next movie and they're walking away to jobs that pay them $2 million. I thought, How do I get my voice across? I wanted to direct." (Somewhat contradictorily, he told Keith Boykin that he wanted to direct because he thought it would make him a better producer.)

Shadowboxer is a contemporary film noir about professional assassins played by Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Helen Mirren, who are also lovers as well as step-son and step-mother. Despite brilliant performances by Gooding and Mirren, and strong supporting jobs by Stephen Dorff, Mo'Nique, Macy Gray, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, the film suffered from an unbelievable plot and from heavy-handed direction.

Although some reviewers liked it a great deal, it received generally negative reviews and failed at the box office. A British critic described it as incongruously combining the "hit-man cool of John Boorman's Point Blank with the operatic colour of an Almodóvar movie."

Characteristically emphasizing the personal appeal of the projects he undertakes, Daniels declared that Shadowboxer "was based on my life. I knew killers. My uncle, who took care of me, murdered people, and yet he took care of me too. People who have gone to jail for murder are also human."

While Shadowboxer was being edited, Daniels suffered a heart attack. He attributed the attack to his use of drugs ten years previously, and stated that coming close to death led him to evaluate his life and to understand more fully the relationship between life and death.

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