Lee Daniels: “I Have Been Brainwashed About Arabic Culture and I’m Embarrassed”

Lee Daniels
Frank Micelotta/Invision/AP

Jane Fonda and Forest Whitaker, two of the stars of Lee Daniels' The Butler, were introduced to hearty applause before presenting Lee Daniels with the Hollywood Director Award. Daniels noted the irony of his award featuring the word "Hollywood" in its title because his film was made without the interest or support of virtually any Hollywood studio, noting that it was the late Laura Ziskin who is most responsible for making it happen: "On her deathbed we were rewriting the script. Literally."


The filmmaker, speaking at the Dubai Film Festival, also confirmed Kate Hudson will star in his upcoming Richard Pryor biopic

The Butler director Lee Daniels wasted no time in outlining what he had learned during his week spent as jury head of the Dubai International Film Festival.

Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter on the penultimate day of the event, the filmmaker revealed that watching films from the Middle East had completely transformed his attitude towards the region.

"What I’ve learned is that I’ve been brainwashed. I have been brainwashed since a child about the Arabic culture," he said, joking that his publicist wasn’t around and his comments were likely to to get him into trouble.

"I have been brainwashed, and I am embarrassed about it. I’m ashamed."

Read more Yemeni Drama Takes Top Award at Dubai Film Fest

Daniels claimed that the view of Arabic culture presented to him in the U.S. was not one of peace.

"But I’ve learned there are peaceful people. And the injustices and the atrocities that have happened are insurmountable. That America does not lend the support that they should. And it’s not right."

With the festival drawing to a close on Wednesday, Daniels said he would be returning to the U.S. to spread his newfound knowledge "loud and clear," later telling one of the festival organizers that he planned to "go on Oprah" to do so.

Read more Lee Daniels Compares Damon Dash's Investment Lawsuit to 'Shell Game'

Oprah Winfrey herself is soon set to appear in Daniels' next feature film project, his upcoming and as-yet-untitled Richard Pryor biopic.

"She plays his grandmother, who was a prostitute and a madam of the whorehouse," he said, adding that he would be finish tweaking the script, written by Bill Condon, next week.

"I’ll start pre-production in January and shoot at the end of March, beginning of April, in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco."

Daniels also confirmed that Kate Hudson would be playing the comedian’s wife, Jennifer Lee Pryor. Stand-up star Mike Epps was confirmed in the lead role in August.

"It’s been so great because I haven’t really worked on a film in over a year. I’m anxious to be getting behind the camera," Daniels said.