Lee Daniels Says 'The United States Vs. Billie Holiday' Is His First Film Sober
Photo Credit: Takashi Seida/Hulu

Lee Daniels Says 'The United States Vs. Billie Holiday' Is His First Film Sober

The United States vs. Billie Holiday is a milestone for director Lee Daniels. He has revealed that it is the first film he’s directed while sober.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Daniels told the outlet that his process to sobriety included quitting drugs in 2009 after Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire, and quitting drinking during the production of his series, Empire. The last drink he had was four years ago.

He spoke about how being sober means not escaping or hiding from pain, calling drugs and alcohol a “blanket.”

“You can’t anesthetize. A glass of vodka is a nice cover, a blanket, a fur coat on you to take away all the insecurities that you have, to take away all of the nervousness, the fear. Sober, you’re naked and you’re doing the work.”

Coincidentally, Billie Holiday focuses on the government attacking Holiday for her activism and for singing the anti-lynching song Strange Fruit. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film shows how the government used Holiday’s addiction to heroin against her as way to trap her in the legal system.

Perhaps it’s the pain Holiday lived through that Daniels identifies with. As he told the outlet, he believes his ability to tap into the harder emotions of life is what has endeared him to the actors he works with.

“I know what it’s like to be in pain,” he said. “I know addiction. I know it well. You’re uncomfortable in your skin…Showing your vulnerability to your crew and to your actors makes them feel at ease that they can just give you their soul because I’m just baring my soul to you. If you judge me, you judge me.”

The United States vs. Billie Holiday will debut on Hulu Feb. 26.

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