Last I wrote about this project a couple of weeks ago, Oprah Winfrey was said to be eyeing a role in director Lee Daniels’ The Butler, to be produced by Laura Ziskin (Pretty Woman, As Good As It Gets, Spider-Man 1, 2 & 3) – the drama based on Eugene Allen, an African American who worked as a butler in the White House for over 34 years, serving 8 presidents from 1952 to 1986.
Also… Recall it was rumored that Denzel Washington was Daniels’ man for the starring role as the butler, but word has been that he wants David Oyelowo instead (who is also attached to star as MLK in Daniels’ in Limbo project Selma, and will appear in Daniels’ recently-completed thriller The Paperboy).
First announced in mid-2010 as a Sony Pictures project, The Butler is now being financed independently, and Daniels has reportedly been busy “putting together a top-notch cast.“
And adding to that “top-notch” cast is Forest Whitaker, who Variety says is also now in negotiations to play the title role, as Eugene Allen, the titular butler! David Oyelowo would instead play his son in the film.
As already reported, Oprah Winfrey would play the butler, Eugene Allen’s wife.
Other actors being offered roles include Mila Kunis to play Jackie Kennedy, and John Cusack to play Richard Nixon. Hugh Jackman’s name is also in the mix, but no word on what character he’d play.
Allen started at the White House as a “pantry man” in 1952 when blacks weren’t allowed to use public restrooms in his native Virginia. He ended up serving eight presidents, and had a unique front row seat, as political and racial history was being made, from the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, to the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy Jr.
The film is based on a series of articles written on Allen by Wil Haygood.
If financing comes together for this (based on this cast thus far, as well as the producer names, I’d be surprised if it didn’t eventually) this could be one of those films that’s buzzed about during awards season, during whatever year it’s released.