*Lee Daniels credits Patti LaBelle for helping him out of addiction. During his conversation with The Guardian to promote his film “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” Daniels explained the empathy he has for Billie Holiday.
“Part of the reason I wanted to tell Billie’s story is, I understand addiction and the artist. I also understand the feeling of a lack of self-worth, thinking that you aren’t talented. When your father tells you things like that at a young age, no matter how old you get, that voice is in your head, he said.
Daniels then explained that Patti “was the cause of my sobriety.”
“I called her one night at 3am – it was when I was doing Precious [in 2008], and I kept rambling at her. She said to me, ‘You know God and you know Jesus,’ and I said, ‘Are you really gonna ruin my high now? What are you talking about, lady?’ But I said a prayer and that was the beginning for me.”
Daniels previously revealed that the Holiday biopic would be the first film project he’s produced or directed sober.
“I’m a little nervous talking about it. But it is important because it affected Billie, it affected me, and addiction is real. Unless I am talking about it, I am not going to stay sober.”
The United States vs. Billie Holiday, starring Andra Day is set to release on Hulu on February 26.
The film follows the iconic jazz musician and singer as “she’s being targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics in an undercover sting operation led by federal agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair, per Broadway World. The biopic will examine Holliday’s struggles with addiction, fame, and heartbreak.
“It is an extraordinary responsibility to tell the story of the iconic Billie Holiday. Her story is very personal to me and I hope to do justice when bringing to light this profound and complicated soul — a great artist and an unsung civil rights warrior,” Daniels said in a statement.
The film is inspired by the 2015 New York Times bestseller “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs.”
In an interview with Essence magazine, Day counted Holiday as one of her major musical influences.
“Nina Simone and Billie Holiday are pretty much the reasons I do what I do now,” she said. “Nina Simone particularly because of her activism: She used her music as her platform. She was willing to speak up for the race issues that were going on at the time, even to the detriment of her own career.”