Beautiful People 2007: Danny Lee

Writer-director Danny Lee finds inspiration everywhere. With a UC Santa Barbara film degree under his belt, the L.A. native cut his teeth on 2004's Rock Fresh, a documentary he made about his graffiti-artist friends. "It's a coming-of-age story," says the 28-year-old. "It's about pursuing your art with all your resources." Lee grew up skating in Hancock Park, an experience that left him without the usual naive ambitions a young upstart might bring to the craft: "If there's a setback, it won't blind me or damage my outlook on my career." He does in fact seem fearless, driven to reveal "worlds that the viewership isn't accustomed to seeing." Lee has directed music videos and interviews with artists such as Cypress Hill, Hieroglyphics, and T.I., and he recently served as PAPER's documentarian, keeping a video record of last fall's PAPER Project L.A. He also acts as a juror to NAMAC, a national nonprofit organization for media arts.

Looking ahead, Lee has his hands in so many upcoming projects that he can barely talk about just one. He's finishing up King of Hollywood, a genre-defying farce featuring Ice-T, Peter Greene and Federico Castelluccio about a hustler's struggle to make it big in Tinseltown despite his run-ins with Hollywood's criminal underworld. ("It kind of has a Curb Your Enthusiasm/Entourage feel," he says.) In addition, he's working on a film about the London drug trade; a hush-hush comedy vehicle written for Jack Black and Dave Chappelle; and Backpackers, the tale of a Californian runaway in search of answers to family secrets. "Each film should be an amusement-park ride," the auteur says. Hopefully, Lee's not so busy that he forgets to look over his shoulder. We're keeping a close watch on him.
Jonas Oransky

Danny Lee wears a jacket by Five Four, watch by Nixon.

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