At this year’s National Association for Black Journalists Convention, I received the opportunity to talk briefly, one on one with Lee Daniels (director of ‘The Butler’) and Wil Haygood (the author of ‘The Butler’) about their new movie ‘Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’. They both talk about how this movie can help the younger generations learn more about their history and how their lives related to the movie.
When you first read Wil Haygood’s story what was your vision for the movie?
Lee Daniels: It was a father and son story. Around this time, I was watching my own son grow up at the age of 13. I saw the connection between me and my son along with Eugene (The Butler) and his son. Then, the bus riot scene happened where actors were attacking the bus and I’m yelling cut, but they can’t hear me so they keep going and at that moment I cried because I could feel how civil right activist felt back during that time. I know that this film was on a another level for me.
When talking to Charles Allen (the son of the Butler) and Wil Haygood about the Butler. What was your impression of him?
I walked away with the feeling that this man (Eugene Allen) wasn’t just some butler, but instead an elegant, humble, and regal servant for our country.
In the movie, we see young African American activist who are willing to take a stand for what they believe in. When you see that in comparison with today’s generation what do you think?
I didn’t know that the Trayvon Martin verdict would happen around the time my movie came out because I felt hopeful for the future because Obama is here. But nothing has changed. It’s time for young kids to get serious again and really think about what their four fathers were like. As African-Americans, we are resilient, we are some bad mf-ers, and we are survivors. So get those i-pods out of their ears and become heroes again like the Freedom Riders.
Of course, your original intentions weren’t to write a story that would later become a movie. So, what were you originally trying to do with this story?
Wil Haygood: My intentions were to just find someone in the White House like a painter, butler, or maid who has saw dramatic change from generation to generation to generation and write a story about their journey through the White House.
As a young African-American male in the 70s and 80s. What was one situation that you related to from the movie?
Wil Haygood: Being the first person to go to college that really related to me from the movie because being black and going to college everyone puts so much hope into you. That moment really resonated with me.
Did this movie have a message that it wanted to get out to the younger generation?
Wil Haygood: To show them that they come from struggle and they can never forget that because other people have given their lives for me and you to be here. It’s very important that we recognize where we came from and our heritage. This movie will remind young people of the glory, grit, and pain of our struggle.
What are your thoughts about your legacy along with the movie?
Lee Daniels: My son said, “He liked the movie a lot so if my family is satisfied with the movie and I can get another job (laughs a little) then I am ok with my legacy as of now.
Wil Haygood: I think people in the future will come up to me and say, “Everything that you are and everything that you have is because of that butler.” Of course, that’s Oprah’s line from the movie, but I think it will resonate with my legacy with the movie.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler opens this Friday, August 16, 2013.