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by Jay A. Fernandez
September 24, 2012 2:57 PM
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Lee Daniels' 'The Butler' With Oprah Winfrey and Jane Fonda Acquired by the Weinstein Co.

Forest Whitaker on the set of 'Lee Daniels' The Butler.' Photo by Anne Marie Fox
The Weinstein Co. has acquired U.S. rights to Lee Daniels’ in-the-works historical biopic “The Butler,” starring Forest Whitaker as the title character.

While Daniels’ most recent film, “The Paperboy,” has fielded its share of derision since its Cannes debut, “The Butler” boasts a high-profile ensemble cast and a decades-spanning look at the inner workings of the White House that make it a juicy prospect for a distributor as savvy as the Weinstein Co. In addition to the Oscar-winning Whitaker, “The Butler” stars Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and Robin Williams, among others.

“Lee tells stories in a way no one else does,” said TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. “What struck me most about this story is the perspective it comes from, which in this case is the butler — a man who was a fly on the wall for decades in the world’s most powerful home. It takes an unbelievable cast like the one that’s in place to do this story justice, and we are proud to be given the chance to share this story with the world.”

“Butler,” which is still filming in New Orleans, tracks the man who served in the White House as a butler to eight presidents over thirty years. Danny Strong (“Game Change”) and Daniels wrote the screenplay, which is inspired by Wil Haygood’s Washington Post article.

Pamela Oas Williams, the late Laura Ziskin, Daniels, Buddy Patrick and Cassian Elwes are producing. Windy Hill Pictures, Follow Through Productions, Salamander Media, Salloway Rubenstein Productions/Crystal City Entertainment, Earl W. Stafford, Starstream Films, Yogi Entertainment, and Inner Media Capital financed the film.

TWC execs David Glasser and Andrew Kramer negotiated the deal with Schuyler Moore of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Elwes on behalf of Evolution Independent and CAA on behalf of Butler Films. CAA packaged the film and is handling North American sales along with Elwes. IM Global is repping international sales.

TWC has “Killing Them Softly,” “Silver Linings Playbook” and “Django Unchained” hitting theaters in the coming months.

Daniels’ “Precious,” which TWC tried to acquire in 2009 (it ended up at Lionsgate), drew six Academy Award nominations, including for best picture and best director, and it won two. “The Paperboy” will next screen at the New York Film Festival.

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