Lee Daniels Wants Oprah Winfrey For ‘The Butler;’ Neeson, Jackman, Kunis, Oyelowo, Cusack All Possible as Well
Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2012 by Russ Fischer
In the months that followed the release and general success of Lee Daniels‘ film Precious, the director considered two follow-ups. One was Selma, a civil-rights drama that would have recreated the relationship between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson. The other was The Butler, about a man named Eugene Allen, who was a servant in the White House starting in 1954 and working through eight presidencies.
Neither of those films ended up happening. Daniels made The Paperboy instead, and that film will be released later this year.
But now Daniels is looking once again at making The Butler. The film isn’t financed at this point, but as he did when originally trying to make Selma, Daniels is puling together a cast. Right now he’s got Hugh Jackman, Mila Kunis and John Cusack, with David Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey, who hasn’t acted in a live-action drama since Beloved, as possible additions. Finally, Liam Neeson could end up playing Lyndon B. Johnson, a role he was previously set to play for Selma.
THR has most of the cast announcements, saying that David Oyelowo, if cast, would play Eugene Allen. Mila Kunis would be Jackie Kennedy; John Cusack would be Richard M. Nixon. Jackman and Neeson were both slated to be part of Selma, and while FirstShowing says that Neeson is being approached to play LBJ, there’s no word yet of who Jackman might play.
Danny Strong wrote the script based on Wil Haygood‘s 2008 Washington Post story A Butler Well Served by This Election. Daniels did a rewrite. In 2010 the director said of The Butler,
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‘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.