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Harry Lennix Takes On ‘The Butler’ – Says Lee Daniels ‘N*ggerfies It,’ Calls It ‘Historical Porn’

Harry Lennix Takes On 'The Butler' - Says Lee Daniels 'N*ggerfies It,' Calls It 'Historical Porn'

First some background…

Several months ago or so, I did an interview for another site with actor Harry Lennix, who all of you know, and was seen this summer in Warner Bros’ huge Superman reboot, Man of Steel. But the interview wasn’t about that; it was instead about Harry’s upcoming indie projects, like the fascinating Mr. Sophistication, directed by Danny Green, in which he plays a Richard Pryor-like self-destructive comedian attempting a comeback, and his all-black version of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, called H4, which has just finished post-production. And both of those are on top of 6 other pictures he’s completed that are scheduled to be released next year.

Knowing Harry personally for many years, we really had more of a conversation than an interview; he is, as always, up front, totally honest and says exactly what he thinks. And that is so refreshing, considering how most people in the business are reluctant to speak out on anything, or be opinionated.

However, when the interview appeared on the other site where it was posted, it was severely edited, to put it nicely, and a lot of what he said was cut out, evidently fearing that Harry had stepped on some toes. Especially what Harry said about black imagery in the media and, in particular, Lee Daniels’ upcoming film The Butler, with Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, about the long-serving butler who worked at the White House – a film that’s currently in the middle of a court battle over the title, between The Weinstein Company and Warner Bros.

As you can read below, Harry is not too thrilled about the film:

Which leads me to asking do you constantly have to think about the image you are portraying as black man every time to do a role?

“I think about it every day and any time that a role is offered, and believe me lots of crummy roles are offered. But at this point people know better than to mess with me with a lot of these things. For example Lee Daniels sent me the script for that film he’s making now, The Butler, about the black butler at the White House. I read five pages of this thing and could not go any further. I tried to read more of it, and I’m not a soft spoken guy, but it was such an appalling mis-direction of history in terms of taking an actual guy who worked at the White House. But then he “niggerfies” it. He “niggers” it up and he gives people these, stupid, luddite, antediluvian ideas about black people and their roles in the historical span in the White House and it becomes… well… historical porn. I refused.”

Well that’s not good.

“And people want to see these images so they’ll say things like: “It’s a very difficult movie to look at, but it’s great movie.” That’s a contradiction in terms. That’s a paradox. It can’t be that it’s a great movie, but it’s difficult to look at. You know what I mean? (laughs) Why would you put these images out there? But clearly the critics, many of them, love to see this kind of material and love to see us in these types of roles.”

Because it feeds into…  

“Because it feeds into the great lie that is being perpetrated by the most important medium, the most powerful export that the United States has to offer which is entertainment. The most powerful tool that they have and it has kept us in a place, men in dresses and things, raping their daughters and things. While any sort of aberrant behavior happens in any community, it has become normative in black cinema that we are these bestial, deprived people, and I refuse to play with that.”

Well just keep fighting the good fight.

“I’ll never take part in it. They can kiss my ass (laughs). But it’s not going to happen.”

That’s my man Harry telling it like it is.

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Comments

Jeffrey

The problem with the black race is that they want white folks to respect them forget that
Ever happening. If you are a passive that is a sign of weakness. The white men only understands violence with violence by any means. The disrespectful way black men treat
their women us unreal. Most white men really don't speak ill of their women. Black
Men put money right back into our pockets thank you……We white people are aware that
Some of our movies are terrible and really should never ever deserve an Oscar but we will
Back it up. For example Andy Warhol,Some of the most overrated movies American Beauty, Save the tiger, and painters Picasso. Wake up black America stop shopping
NFL,NBA run negro run. This is from a white man!!!!!!

Jeffrey lalonde

Wow

kebb ladd

Well, so goes another 'off the cuff ' statement that has no merit. It seems like most of the comments against the BUTLER are from folk who haven't seen it. That's like saying a book is horrible only having read 5 pages. Examine the history Harry Lennix! I think it has more to do with ego and you pushing your next project than giving an honest opinion about the Butler – #1 film in the country by the way.

weallookalike

Really,Not another movie serving up white guilt, Really I get it but this movie dumbed down the actors. I have to side with Mr.lennix and say cherrio my good man,after reading 5 pages he said nigga please and rolled that bitch up and Sssmoked that. He is too talented to portray that crap. Plus I think most of Hwood is too elitist to weigh in on Trayvon,like they know sheeit about walking in his shoes. Maybe forrest can play Trayvon and get two Oscars…………..

Theodora Anagor

For those that think this is a black film, how black people have consistently been brainwashed by Hollywood judging by some of the comments.
http://racismws.com/2013/08/17/is-lee-daniels-the-butler-really-a-black-movie-2/
This is how Hollywood portrays black people so we know our place, you guys better wake up.
Why the Movie, “The Butler,” Will Not Get One Dime From Me racismws.com/2013/08/14/why-the-movie-the-butler-will-not-get-one-dime-from-me/

Kahlil X

Haven’t see the movie yet. But I don’t have to see it to comment that since Hollywood is in the business of niggerfying movies to make money, they couldn't care less about a movie being historically accurate than historically PERTINENT. Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte and others only chose roles with integrity but of course at the end of the day they are after all ACTORS. Which is why I can’t hate on Sam Jackson for playing Stephen in Django. Somebody had to do it, but it would have been nice to see his black ass fed to the dogs….Essentially the comments break down into 2 camps among BLACK AMERICANS (notice how I didn’t say African). The first camp basically feels we live in a different time and that those historical images and storylines perpetuate stereotypes and caricatures. The second camp of my school of thought, is happy to see ANYTHING involving the history that has been so well hidden from us for one very specific reason: IT GENERATES CONTROVERSY. So while actors like Morgan Freeman (an excellent actor) prefer that we “stop talking about it” and just cross their fingers and hope race and racism will fade into the sunset of history, truth is, silence and trying to bury it under the rug is what gives it power. Bottom line – it’s time for A NATIONAL REFERENDUM ON RACE & SLAVERY. It’s time to deal with this shit from the top down. It’s time to tell the muthafuckin truth. It’s time for the government of this country to acknowledge its complicity in the slave trade – BEFORE AND AFTER EMANCIPATION, and it’s time for Americans to wake the fuck up and stop using words you don’t understand, like RACE. THERE’S ONLY 1 MUTHAFUCKIN RACE: HOMO SAPIENS. Living like 3rd class citizens you patriotic integration lovin niggas stay here…Fuck reparations. This country is in so much fuckin debt they can’t pay their own bills. Just give me a one way ticket back to Africa, pay my Immigration fees, 40 acres and mule and stay the fuck out my business. That’s what this godless Amerika can do for me.

Hasan

Its unfortunate that the amount of services rendered to whites by negroes out of the field as butlers, nanny's, entertainers and etc was insufficient to avert the need for a civil rights movement. I'm just not a fan of movies that dramtize individual and routine aspects of negro servitude that only held significance as survival mechanism rather than an instrument for change.

Jules

http://empower.org for REAL stories about black people, not just poor-me drivel (wth can you expect with Hanoi Jane and Oprah [people still watch her?] in the film?)

James

Harry L. should have read the whole script. To make statements like this without having done so was irresponsible. "The Butler" – We finally have a movie before us, that does a great job at explaining the many facets of the African American experience post slavery. All Americans, regardless of political affiliation or shade of skin, NEED to see this movie. It proves that, in many ways, slavery did not truly end in 1868 – it just changed forms. The impact of slavery and its successor, Jim Crow, upon the psyche of African Americans in particular, and this country in general – is undeniable. Your entire family should see this movie. For those who wonder "why African Americans" do this, or think that? Well, go see…"The Butler."

Pearl

From a historical perspective, it would be a good thing for all young people to see, esp. those who've never opened a book. As for Mr. Linnex, I believe if you cracked his skull open, there would be nothing there but space.

miseagle1013

All I know is that I wont be going to see this movie. I live in Seattle, and the theatres close to me always has a majority of white people who comes to the movie. I don't feel like being embarrassed or feeling uncomfortable like I did with Django or Flight with Denzel in the bed with a white women. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. So I'm going to pass and wait until it comes out on the Redbox and watch it at home. That way if I don't like the movie it will be that I only spent a $1.36 for the dvd

Aries

Maybe this writer considers H. Lennix a big star – I don't. Where is the loooooooooong list of films that he's made? Is his list the length of Will Smith, Samuel Jackson, Denzel Washington? Probably not and why does someone need to kiss his azz because their thought process is different from his? He shows his stupidity by even making such a vulgar statement because someone doesn't think like him? If he disagreed with how the movie was made, he only had to decline Lee's offer and keep his opinion to himself. What is he gaining by making these negative comments about a movie he hasn't seen? He can take it to the bank that Lee Daniels doesn't need him to be sucessful.

QBN

Robert Monroe, Jr. wrote: "I refuse to see any films where Black people are butlers, the help, drive Miss Daisy or perform as magical negroes."

^ This about sums it up for me… I want to see films where Black people triumph independently, on their own terms. No stereotypical portrayals, no White saviors.. There are so many diverse stories in Black history that do not revolve around being a slave or a servant, let's start telling them.

Robbia

I think it is pertinent from a historical point of view.

a.mcewen

Not taking one side or the other but has anyone here responding seen The Butler yet. I mean when I read what Lennix said, I went "here we go again." Every time there is a high profile black movie or a black performance in a movie which captures the imagination, someone brings it down. To me, it's all about having a bunch of different roles and three-dimensional characterizations for black actors and especially black actresses. As long as they don't get stuck playing only one type of character.

sparky

Saying "men in dresses" is aberrant, like "raping their daughters"? Buddy, you can kiss MY ass.

Enoch Mubarak

Speak on it Harry…..Driving Miss daisy, The help, Django, House of Payne, Meet the Browns, The have/ have not and… now the Butler.

Mr. L. Richard

As I read some of the comments directed for Mr. Linnex or against him.I sense people dissing the history lesson in these type of movies, if you don't remember your history you are doomed to repeat it..please take note blk people we are losing our sense of togetherness…to be con't

Gee Renee

Still trying to understand WHAT Daniels did that makes Lennixs feel that he 'niggerfied' the portrayals????

Spaceman's Hairdo

Here's a novel idea: Either make your own films or support independent artists in your communities or sit back, take no action and keep whining about these mainstream films that are spoon-fed to you by media conglomerates. It literally is up to you. There's a whole lot more 'stuff' out there, you just gotta look around.
http://trickyrelativity.wordpress.com/2012/11/10/on-acting-the-surface-and-the-spirit/

Temi Abimbola

I'm starting to like Harry Lennix a lot more, never really paid real attention to him on Man of Steel. But he has such refreshing opinions, I can't wait for this Shakespeare movie he's starring in.

MR. BLACKMA N

I agree with Harry. Lee Daniel is a SHOCK SISSY. Everything he does, he looks for a shocking element in it. That is EGO. I have listened to enough argument pro and con about this dude to conclude: He and Twyler Perry are the WORST. Then again, anything to demasculate a Strong Black Male Image. It would take a FLAMMING UGLY SISSY to denigrate his race.

Monique A Williams

Say that! lol
I loved him on Dollhouse. #gonetoosoon

alex

I met Harry once in a social situation. He definitely speaks his mind and truth with commitment and confidence and does not give a hoot about what you like or dislike about his opinion. It was a little disconcerting but I also admired him.

Scott G. Brown

"HATS OFF TO HARRY LENNIX" who walks like a man and talks like a man! When I saw The Trailer to THE BUTLER, I said, "Here we go again" with the "Step 'N Fetching" stigma that keeps blacks taking care of White Folks. After 400 years of Slavery and FREE LABOR, we are constantly reminded of how we must take care of the white folks, and as Lenny states, the real character is so distorted, it reaks slavery all over again, and "N*ggerfies" the entire movie. I have seen enough of this "N*gger" mockery in my day. I was forced to live it. Another film made for the old racist enthusiast who loaths the yesteryear. Certainly, the young do not want to see it, and neither do I. In my opinion, its dead on arrival.

Robert Monroe, Jr.

I refuse to see any films where Black people are butlers, the help, drive Miss Daisy or perform as magical negroes.

And

This guy acts in generic, Wall St. shareholder designed superhero movies and he's criticizing other people's choices?…lol

Guyver

I am glad that someone from the acting community had the backbone to speak up. I swear, I wish there was a more leveled playing field in terms of the kind of roles and movies we are offered as a people. I suppose there is some diversity, but the powers that be wont get behind and push those movies because it goes against their agenda. We are so much more than slaves, servants or sex objects… we have more to say to the world.

ShebaBaby

I think Harry is my soul mate. Swoon. He told no lies.

not cool

1. Most of the responses below are from December 2012. If it's a rehash, tell us upfront (originally posted on__________.)

2. Why do you give the greenlight for Mr. lennix to be concerned about how we are portrayed, but question Will smith for doing the same?

uhuruhouston

Lee Daniels and his movies comes off as a person that has been severly damaged by events in his life and the subject matter is dark and tiresome!!!

Masha Dowell

Lee Daniels is one of my favorite filmmakers. However, I love seeing people speak their opinions. Its healthy… I freaking love it! It shows that we all (ppl of black decent) have different opinions and that we are not as monolithic as people tend to think!

Hotep

We love Harry's viewpoint. Indie black produced film CALL ME KING, slave mentality not included, view trailer on youtube.

Joe

All Lee Daniels movies are difficult to look at and yet reflect real life human beings with character flaws. This is the stuff of great DRAMA. Mr. Lennix hasn't seen the movie, he only read a pre-production script. Servitude has had a place in ALL cultures that I know of but we (AA) seem to take this as an affront to our people's supposed class instead of the economic strata that a family or individual might find themselves upon. During this same time period many AA families were living large and doing great things. This is story about one group of men and their families. I would be surprised if it strays from the truth vary far. And why is Harry so incensed about this role if he has rejected so many others?? Personally, I've never been that impressed with HL. But I do admire Mr. DANIELS who seems to be able to get his productions financed and released religiously, which is something many who contribute to this blog complain about but never accomplish!! If you think we should be portrayed in a different light more frequently to provide more balance, then MAKE THAT MOVIE!! Keep up the great work Mr. Daniels!!

Qstorm

I'll have to see the film to understand what he's talking about, I guess. I'm not too thrilled at seeing another movie about a black person in a servant role so soon off The Help.

g thorne

My name is Geoffrey Thorne and I endorse Harry Lennix's message.

Noni

I read the script too and found it horrible. The writer hadn't bothered to do the most basic research on the time periods involved (lazy and sad) and though this is a fictionalized version of real life event, the writer when out of his way to dehumanize the main character. The real life man that the character is based on is from Virginia not Georgia and had a very different up bringing than the one in the film, but I guess it wasn't "racial" enough for white audiences. I have no other explanation for the choices that were made. I guess one black man's actual human experience wasn't valid enough to make into a movie, so they made a caricature amalgamation instead.

ScriptTease

Something Harry said, "I think about it every day and any time that a role is offered, and believe me lots of crummy roles are offered".

I would love to hear some of the Horrible, Degrading Scripts that has been offered to Actors and Actresses of Color whether from Black or White Writers/Directors/Producers/Etc…

Honut Sinti

Have you seen Harry in those Little Britain comedy sketches?

Harry Lennix

Tweets by @RealHarryLennix
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DMC

Harry on target!

Adam Scott Thompson

X_X @ "niggerfies." That said, I like Mister Lennix as an actor — ever since I saw him as the slave Aaron in Julie Taymor's film adaptation of Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus." Now THAT was one boss nigger!!! lol

Leon Breckenridge

I feel him but how about don't be in bad movies like a Beautiful Soul. With the gospel singer. That was a really bad film. Like they need to go back to church for that. lol

belmont1929@igc.org

I-Love-This Brother! We see way too little of him and we are the poorer for that. Remember him as Adam Clayton Powell?? or in other work in Shakespearean productions? Great range, great skills, great work, great mind — this is what 60's Black cinema promised us —- an evolution to principled performers who valued their talents, worked at their craft and fought to have access to challenging, thoughtful work that they would be able to interpret to the best of their ability.

Miles Ellison

Everything Daniels does is some kind of porn. And none of it is any good.

Christopher B

ROO BRUH, BE OWT NEO!

vdub

Right on! Right ON! Brother Harry Lennix has spoken the truth plain and simple and powerfully. Thank you Lord, for this truth teller.

A_Keeper

@DEAN… he did define "niggerish" when he stated, "He "niggers" it up and he gives people these, stupid, luddite, antediluvian ideas about black people…" Bascially saying, the butler acts uneduacted, againist progress and some who thinking/mentality is of an older peroid in time.

As far as the word nigger… I'm on the fence about it regarding "how" it is used. Term of endearment… bothers me negatively… describing a person not so bright like DL Hughley then I don't have a problem.

@ regarding "animialistic" behavior… don't we want characters to stand out from one another. I don't want every character to act the same. The animialistic behavior described in Precious… I think it was good for the film. I want a film to "get under my skin" or make me feel good about myself. There has to be good and bad… it's the ying to the yang. Yes, Precious bothered me cause I don't want people to think ALL Black people act that way, but there are some who do, which DL Hughley has stated before.

Lennix has a problem with it… fine. Are there many jobs for Black actors? Not enough!

As far as Perry dressing up as a woman… I think (like someone stated below) he's mocking females not Black man's masculinity. I don't remember people having a problem with Flip Wilson. The difference between Flip Wilson and Tyler Perry is that Geraldine is funny and Madea isn't! My problem is it funny not a man wearing a dress. "See the difference?"

Christopher T

Great words from a Great Actor!

Poe

YES! YES! Finally a professional person of African descent who isn't afraid to speak up and speak the truth.

ALM

"But clearly the critics, many of them, love to see this kind of material and love to see us in these types of roles…..it has become normative in black cinema that we are these bestial, deprived people, and I refuse to play with that."<< And Mr. Lennix has given the message for today….the doors of the church are now open. He just summarized Hollywood with regard to Black people in two sentences flat. I will say this, he is blessed to be able to be both outspoken and actively working at the same time. Hollywood tends to try to silence his level of honesty. His comments make me want to view the full script (instead of supporting the actual movie).

starry118

I watched a clip of Oprah's Life Class, the other day, in which she mentioned filming "The Butler," and wondered how she, and other intelligent Black folk, could bring themselves to participate in it. Amen Harry Lennix…Amen.

getthesenets

didn't say or imply that that he was better….just telling us why he turns down roles.

I take it you are a big fan of daniels' work

Winston

For those wondering why Lennix is commended for his stance, and Spike is condemned for his, it's probably because Spike has a history of being hateful and spiteful, and Lennix does not. Therefore, Lennix's statement comes across as honest critique, as opposed to Spike being upset that many have not cared for his own abysmal attempts at film making during the past decade.

dean

Spike Lee said that he won't see "Django Unchained" because it disrespects his ancestors and he doesn't want to disrespect his ancestors. He didn't explain why–in his opinion–it disrespects his ancestors. I don't understand how it does do that.

Turning to Harry Lennox, I don't understand his take on "The Butler". Use of the N word by him does not explain it. Does he use that word as a substitute for explanation? If the film depicts truthfully history, "poor" or "negative" images of African Americans does not make it a bad film. A truthful film is what we want. Slavery and Jim Crow should be treated truthfully in film and elsewhere.

By the way, you're either part of the solution, or your part of the problem. His use of the N word shows that he's part of the problem. DAKRAN stated:

DAKRAN | DECEMBER 24, 2012 2:17 PM

"He's not proclaiming he's better than Lee Daniels by saying that. He's talking about what is portrayed in the script and has a right to. Kats in the hood use the word nigga towards each other as a "term of endearment", so why can't he use the word to describe a form of behavior. Ex, World Star Hip Hop. Which is what many people use to describe that behavior, they just aren't vocal about it. Kudos to him for being honest."

That's a bunch of bunk–the N word as a term of endearment. It is recognized widely among African Americans that a "nigger" is someone unworthy. "He's a no good, lying nigger." Or: "I''m gonna kill that nigger." Or: "I'm not gonna hire a lazy nigger as my attorney." Or: "He's a shade-tree nigger." Those are not terms of endearment.

A "nigger" is someone who is stupid, dumb, lazy, unworthy and even a "nigger" knows not to hire a "nigger" doctor, attorney, engineer, etc. The use of the N word in the African American community contributes to the ongoing "black vs. white doll problem" as illustrated by Dr. Kenneth Clark, starting in the 1940. (Dr. Kenneth Clark doll test
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151227149888558&set=a.258455448557.141362.228102923557&type=1&relevant_count=1&ref=nf )

Bee

Besides the "men in dresses" bit, I agree with him. I don't think men in drag in cinema is problematic in terms of black masculinity (unless one takes into account the homophobic atmosphere of hollywood, in which case putting black men in drag is merely a way to mock their masculinity. I do think men in drag (i.e. Tyler Perry) mocks black femininity, however. At any rate, I think I agree with Harry Lennix (although this is not to say that we should only have pretty images of blackness – after all, like he said, every culture has its problems and those problems should certainly be examined and spotlighted from time to time). Anyway, I appreciate his candor.

Gar Anthony Haywood

Like Harry, I saw all this coming long ago, and greeted it with the same level of disgust:

http://www.murderati.com/blog/2012/4/11/driving-mister-president.html

Gar Anthony Haywood

bondgirl

"He "niggerfies" it. He "niggers" it up." <<—This is a black man, trying to convince someone that he's better than Lee Daniels…using that kind of language to depict another black man? You must be out your damn mind if you don't see men like Harry are symptomatic of the problem he addresses.

Darkan

Met Mr. Lennix a year ago, very upstanding man with a strong character. Thank you for being vocal and speaking the truth. I wish there were more brave black people in the entertainment community who would speak up. Perhaps then and only then would things start to change.

Miles Ellison

He's exactly right.

mlm

Okay how is this any different than what Spike hinted at yet Harry is being praised.

Steen

Great interview and Mad Luv to Harry for keeping it real. Everything he said is dead on.

Gary. C..

Much respect for this brother.

spassky

WOH, Lennix is PRETTY honest. He is also PRETTY amazing. What. a. dude.

monkeysuit

PREACH! I've always thought that Lee Daniels' work is more offensive than Tyler Perry's. No other filmmaker has made us look more animalistic.

K.S

Wow!!! I have so much respect for him!

HappyBrownGirl

LOVE Harry Lennix!

Udeme Umoren

Halleluyah! Amen! That is refreshing! Seems like if you want to get projects greenlighted some go above and beyond instead of taking a stand of integrity. Much respect to Henry Lennix! Btw watching ROOTS on BET at 40 in 2012 was difficult to watch albeit necessary for the time.

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