While "Precious" helmer Lee Daniels is nominally in Cannes at the moment to promote the debut of the follow up to his Oscar-nominee, "The Paperboy," which screens tomorrow morning (keep your eyes peeled for our review), it seems the director also intends to leak out casting news for his upcoming project, "The Butler." Earlier this week, it was revealed that Daniels would reunite with his "Paperboy" star Nicole Kidman on the project, and now Daniels has revealed that "Friday Night Lights" star Minka Kelly and "Precious" actor Lenny Kravitz have been added to the growing ensemble of "The Butler" as well.
Based on a on a Washington Post article by Wil Haygood, "The Butler" tells the story of Eugene Allen, the late White House butler who served eight presidents during his tenure from 1952 to 1986. Forest Whitaker will topline the movie as Allen in a terrific, growing ensemble that includes David Oyelowo as Allen's son and Oprah Winfrey as Allen's wife, as well as Oscar winner Cuba Gooding Jr and Oscar nominee Terrence Howard in undisclosed roles. While Kravitz's role is also unknown, the confusion over the Presidential roles is clearing up with Alan Rickman playing Ronald Reagan (Jane Fonda will play Nancy Reagan, much to the consternation of Conservatives), while John Cusack will play Richard Nixon. Matthew McConaughey, curiously, will play John F. Kennedy (we can hear it now: "All right, all right, Ich bin ein Berliner"), with Kelly taking the role of Jacqueline Kennedy.
Daniels admits that he took on the project after emotionally connecting to the material. "I connected with it because it is ultimately a father-son story with a civil rights backdrop," Daniels told ScreenDaily. "In my lifetime there were separate water fountains, pools and toilets for blacks. People forget that. This is such an exciting journey for me."
Production on "The Butler" is set to start on July 16th, with Daniels location scouting starting next Monday. Danny Strong ("Game Change") and Daniels are currently working on the script. Looks like this will be targeting the Oscar season in 2013, although don't rule out a late-summer release, a la "The Help."