Posted on Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Russ Fischer
A couple years ago, Precious director Lee Daniels went back and forth on the idea of filming the life of longtime White House servant Eugene Allen for the movie The Butler, or making a civil rights drama called Selma. In the end, he made neither, choosing instead to shoot The Paperboy with Zac Efron, John Cusack, Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey, based on Peter Dexter’s novel of the same name.
But with that film complete, Daniels has cycled back around to The Butler, and is in the process of casting the film. We’ve heard about quite a few possible actors (Hugh Jackman, Oprah Winfrey, Liam Neeson), some of whom were set for roles in Selma before that project died. The only casting that seemed close to set for The Butler was David Oyelowo, who was said to have the title role.
Now Oyelowo is still in talks for the movie, but it looks like he’ll play Allen’s son, instead of the title character. In the lead role is likely to be played by Forest Whitaker.
Variety says that both men are in talks, along with Winfrey, who would play Allen’s wife. Part of the hesitation in the casting is that financing still isn’t set — that was in motion last time we reported on the project. Daniels and his producers want to shoot this summer, but that will be contingent upon getting the financial situation worked out.
The script, by Daniels and Danny Strong, is based on a Washington Post story by Wil Haygood, which told the story of Allen’s tenure at the White House from 1952 to 1986, though which he served under eight presidents. In 2010 the director said of The Butler,
‘The Butler’ is a story very near and dear to my heart, about a butler (Eugene Allen) who has lived with six or seven Presidents….This guy went from picking cotton to Eisenhower to today. It’s our ‘Gone With the Wind,’ and it’s my ‘Gone With the Wind.’ It’s my ‘Forrest Gump.’ We’ve never seen the world from an African American’s eyes, pre-Civil Rights to today.