Time Magazine named him one of their 100 Most Influential People of 2020. He's made over 30 pictures and wrote-directed-produced-and-starred in almost half of them. He's worth more than a $1 billion, and he's the first African American to own a major film studio. We're sending much love this V-Day to our highlighted legend, Tyler Perry.
How You Know Him
He's appeared as Mabel "Madea" Earlene Simmons in 11 motion pictures. Madea is Tyler Perry's signature comic, wise, loving character – in his words, she's the "PG version of my mother and my aunt." By 2019, the "Tyler Perry's Madea" franchise had made over $500 million at the domestic box office.
He's also a prolific director of other non-Madea Black stories, having made 10 other films where he didn't appear as his most popular creation. In addition, Perry's made a deep impression in other directors' films, everything from a Star Fleet admiral in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" to a starring role as psychologist/police lieutenant in "Alex Cross" to a fantastic part as the high-priced attorney Tanner Bolt in David Fincher's "Gone Girl."
Perry's Madea works have been hugely popular on stage, too, along with other Perry written-produced-directed creations. He's also been a fertile creator of popular tv shows, from TBS' "House of Payne" (2007-2012) to OWN's "The Haves and the Have Nots" (2013-present).
Their Life So Far
Perry had to overcome trauma early on, abused by his father, and molested by a friend's mom and other men during his childhood years. He took solace, though, in his mother's comfort and his weekly visits to church. While he didn't complete high school, he did earn his GED.
Watching an episode of the Oprah Winfrey show as a young man, he heard that writing could be therapeutic. Soon, he started writing letters to himself, which became the basis for his musical, "I Know I've Been Changed."
He later financed that musical with his own $12,000 in life savings, and despite negative critics reviews, he worked on further revisions of the play. Through his hard work and tenacity, he was able to build up a massive following in Atlanta throughout the '90s for his stage plays. By the early '00s, his work was generating more than $100 million in ticket sales and $30 million from videos of the shows.
By the mid '00s, Perry had entered into what would become a lucrative and long-standing relationship with Lionsgate Films, who released his first film, "Diary of a Mad Black Woman," and over the next decade and a half, would release 20 more feature films.
One of the culminations of Perry's success was the creation of Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, covering over 330 acres, and 50,000 square feet of standing permanent sets, including a luxury hotel lobby, a '50s diner and a replica of the White House. Projects shot there include "The Walking Dead" and the MCU hit "Black Panther."
Beyond his working relationship with Oprah Winfrey to provide tv programming for her network OWN, the two also collaborated as producers on the acclaimed and Oscar-nominated film, "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire."
The Movie to Watch
Of the movies featuring Tyler Perry's signature Madea character, the best is "Tyler Perry's "I Can Do Bad All By Myself," which finds Madea delivering three sibling youngsters who've raided her house to their only relative – an aunt (Taraji P. Henson) who's struggling in her own life. A mix of broad comedy and heartfelt sentimentality, it's Perry and Madea doing what they do best – delivering a sizeable audience some authentic cinematic comfort food.
What's Up Next
Just released last month was Tyler Perry's first offering on Netflix, the thriller "A Fall from Grace," about a woman indicted for murdering her husband. Her attorney, though, suspects that a conspiracy is at play. The film's also notable for being the last screen appearance of the legendary actress Cicely Tyson.
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About the Author
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.