(ATLANTA, Ga.) — Tyler Perry is no stranger to trouble.
After overcoming a traumatic childhood and months of homelessness as a struggling artist, the 42-year-old movie mogul faces new problems—racial profiling and, most recently, a four-alarm fire at his Atlanta movie studio.
“Atlanta firefighters responded immediately to a fire that damaged the backlot facade of one of the buildings at Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta,” Perry’s spokeswoman said in a statement to ABCNews.com. “We are grateful that there were no injuries, and that 99 percent of the damage is limited to the backlot facade. Mr. Perry wishes to express his heartfelt thanks to the Atlanta fire department for its professionalism in their quick response and limiting the damage.”
Officials are still investigating the cause of Tuesday’s blaze, which brought more than 100 firefighters and took an hour to extinguish, Atlanta Fire Department spokesman J.L. Bundrige told ABCNews.com. Bundrige said it’s too early to know whether the fire was considered suspicious or accidental.
Perry named his backlot 34th Street, as in the movie Miracle on 34th Street. He has called his 200,000-square-foot studio, situated on 30 acres, which opened in 2008 and is home to five sound stages and a 400-seat theater, a “miracle.”
Like the legendary Madea, the loud-talking, gun-toting grandmother Perry played in his successful stage shows and films, including Diary of Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Family Reunion, Perry often invokes God and his faith for helping him through his greatest challenges.
“I always thought I would die before I grew up,” he wrote in a 2009 uncharacteristically somber letter to fans on his website.
After watching a screening of the movie Precious, which he executive produced with Oprah Winfrey, about a 16-year-old girl who is physically and emotionally abused, the New Orleans native revealed that it was like “a large part of my childhood had just played out before my eyes.”
In the letter, Perry recounted a horrific list of beatings and hardships, including the time his father whipped him with the vacuum cleaner extension cord “until the skin was coming off my back.”
He also revealed that he was sexually molested by a number of adults, both male and female.
Later, in a 2010 interview with Winfrey, he recalled trying to commit suicide as an 11-year-old child and later as a 22-year-old adult trying to launch his first stage play, I Know I’ve Been Changed, based on his traumatic childhood.
After moving to Atlanta in 1992 and pouring his life savings into his dream play, Tyler went bust when the audience failed to show up. For months, he slept in cheap hotels and his car, and for the next six years, he tried and continually failed to get his play off the ground. Finally in 1998, Tyler’s play caught on with audiences and he has never looked back.
After staging 13 plays in 13 years and introducing audiences to the unforgettable Madea, Tyler made the move to the big screen in 2005 with his first feature film, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, which debuted at No. 1 nationwide. Since then, he has built an empire, directing 12 films, including the critically acclaimed For Colored Girls, successfully expanding to television with three high-rated series and employing more than 300 people at his Atlanta studio.
Despite his success, though, Perry claimed he was racially profiled in April when police stopped him for making an illegal turn after leaving his studio. When he told police he made the wrong turn because he was worried he was being followed, he said they continued to harass him until a third officer, who was black, arrived.
“He took one look at me and had that ‘Oh No’ look on his face,” Perry wrote on his Facebook page. “He immediately took both officers to the back of my car and spoke to them in a hushed tone. After that, one of the officers stayed near his car while one came back, very apologetic.”
He concluded his post on Facebook with, “RACIAL PROFILING SHOULD BE A HATE CRIME INVESTIGATED BY THE FBI!!!”
Atlanta police are investigating the incident.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Madison Park, Keith Allen and Andreas Preuss, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Eric Levenson, CNN
Sandra Gonzalez, CNN