It took a couple of years after Precious for director Lee Daniels to get cameras rolling on his follow-up, the lurid Southern melodrama The Paperboy, but he’s barely even taking a breather before heading into his next picture. Even as The Paperboy gears up for its theatrical run, Daniels has already started shooting The Butler with Forest Whitaker in the lead as longtime White House servant Eugene Allen.

Although the film’s drawn quite a bit of attention in recent months for its star-studded cast, which includes Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, Terrence Howard, and many, many more, the first official still is a simple one of Whitaker at work. Check it out after the jump.

UPDATE: We now also have photos of James Marsden and Minka Kelly in costume as John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy. See them after the jump.

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Matthew McConaughey is having one hell of a year. Having already drawn praise for turns in Richard Linklater’s Bernie, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike, and William Friedkin’s Killer Joe, the onetime Failure to Launch star is now heading into fall with Lee DanielsThe Paperboy.

Inspired by true events, The Paperboy centers around wayward young man (Zac Efron) and his journalist brother (McConaughey). When a woman (Nicole Kidman) approaches them for help in getting her death row inmate boyfriend (John Cusack) out of jail, they investigate the murder that put him there. David Oyelowo and Macy Gray also star. The first theatrical trailer has just hit the web, and you can watch it after the jump.

After Precious became a hit, director Lee Daniels ended up looking into dual true-story films with civil rights interests. The first, Selma, lined up an impressive cast (Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, David Oyelowo, Robert De Niro, Cedric the Entertainer) for a tale about the relationship between Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson, and the desegregation campaigns and civil rights marches that centered in Selma, Alabama in the mid-’60s. The other was The Butler, about a man who worked in the White House under several generations of US Presidents.

Neither film ended up being Daniels’ Precious follow-up — that was The Paperboy, which was savaged at Cannes, but also became a tabloid object thanks to the scene in which Nicole Kidman urinates on Zac Efron. But Daniels is getting The Butler ready to go now, and he’s about to corral former Selma collaborator Hugh Jackman for a new MLK story. This one, Orders to Kill, will have a more confrontational story, as it follows an attorney who insists that King assassin James Earl Ray was not really responsible for the activist’s death. Read More »

Precious director Lee Daniels is putting together The Butler, and he’s handing Robin Williams a razor before signing him on to the film. Williams is now set to play former President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the movie, which traces the true story of Eugene Allen, who served in the White House for three decades, through eight presidencies. This will be Williams’ second Presidential turn, after playing a fanciful version of Teddy Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum films. It also appears to be part of one of those good stretches Williams hits every once in while, where he goes for gigs that are more serious than broad. Read More »

Even as Lee Daniels‘ follow-up to Precious, The Paperboy, makes its debut at Cannes this week, the filmmaker’s wasting no time assembling a stellar cast for his next project, The Butler. The talented Forest Whitaker leads the picture as Eugene Allen, the late White House butler who served under eight different presidents from 1952 through 1986, with Oprah Winfrey and rising star David Oyelowo signed to play his wife and son.

And the cast only gets more buzzworthy from there. The roster also includes Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Nicole Kidman, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Lenny Kravitz, and John Cusack. Now we can add Minka Kelly to the list as well, as Daniels says he’s cast her to play Jackie Kennedy to Matthew McConaughey‘s John F. More after the jump.

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The primary lineup for the competition slate at the 2012 Cannes has been unveilend, and it is a very strong list of films. There are quite a few expected entries: David Cronenberg‘s Cosmopolis, Lee DanielsThe Paperboy, John Hillcoat‘s Lawless (formerly The Wettest County), and Andrew Dominik‘s Killing Them Softly (formerly Cogan’s Trade), and we already knew that Wes Anderson‘s Moonrise Kingdom would open the festival.

But the international lineup is even more exciting, with films such as Rust & Bone from Jacques Audiard, Amour from Micheal Haneke, The Hunt from Thomas Vinterberg, and Mekong Hotel from 2010 Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul. As is occasionally the case with Cannes, this year’s lineup features many returning Cannes award winners; it’s a world-class program.

The downside to all of that is that Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master and Terrence Malick‘s as-yet untitled romance starring Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Javier Bardem didn’t show up in the list. There is some time for them to be added to the festival lineup in some measure, but (as expected) we’ll likely have to wait until this fall for The Master. As for the Malick movie… well, it’s Malick, so who knows?

You’ll find the lineup as it has been announced so far after the break. Read More »

Briefly: For anyone who doubted, Lee Daniels just proved that he has a sense of humor, perhaps even an impish sense of provocation. The director of Precious and the upcoming film The Paperboy is assembling The Butler, about Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served presidents from Harry Truman in 1952 to Ronald Reagan in 1986.

Forest Whitaker is almost set to play Allen, and there is a large cast assembling to support him: Oprah Winfrey as his wife, David Oyelowo as his son, and Liam Neeson and John Cusack as Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.

And now Daniels has cast Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. Read More »

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. Read More »

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