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 »

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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 »

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. Read More »

For years, George Lucas has flirted with the idea of returning to the sort of small, so-called personal movies that he toyed with at the outset of his career, before Star Wars diverted him off the path of the iconoclastic New Hollywood directors and straight onto the blockbuster highway.

Set aside for a moment the fact that every film Lucas has made in the last 13 years has been personal — the Star Wars prequels were done by him, his way, with his money, and the upcoming Red Tails is the product of more than twenty years of interest in the Tuskegee Airmen — and what starts to emerge is the idea that Lucas is tired of being second-guessed, criticized and scrutinized.

And so, after Red Tails is released, Lucas wants to walk away from the high-profile filmmaking world and make the sort of films that his friend Francis Ford Coppola has been making in the past decade. Read More »

Trivia: Jennifer Hudson Turned Down ‘Precious’

Gabourey Sidibe was a complete unknown when she beat out hundreds of other candidates in a nationwide casting call for the lead role in Lee DanielsPrecious, but that quickly changed once the film actually came out. The young star garnered tons of acclaim for her fearless performance, including an Oscar nomination for Best Actress, and now it’s tough to imagine anyone but Sidibe ever playing that part. Like, say, Jennifer Hudson.

In a new book, the Oscar-winning Dreamgirls star reveals that she was asked at one point to audition for the role, but turned it down because she didn’t want to gain the weight. More after the jump.

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Today’s TV Bits travels all over the place, from the fantastical land of Westeros and the vampire-riddled town of Bon Temps, Louisiana to the very real locales of Romania and New York City. After the jump:

  • Game of Thrones finds its Ygritte, and announces an April 2012 return
  • True Blood makes a fountain in Romania run blood red
  • Lee Daniels signs on to develop an NYC-based LGBT series for Showtime

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Between Mad Men, Pan Am, and The Playboy Club, you’d think television would have gotten its fill of glossy dramas about the 1960s, but it seems those shows may soon have to make room for one more. Precious director Lee Daniels is set to develop Jacqueline Susann’s 1966 novel Valley of the Dolls for NBC. The book follows three women over two decades as they hit highs and lows and eventually self-destruct. More details after the jump.

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‘The Bourne Legacy:’ Scott Glenn is Back For More

When Universal gave Tony Gilroy a mandate to make a new Bourne film that might establish a series parallel to the existing trilogy starring Matt Damon, he pledged a story that would take place in the same world and expand upon some background elements seen in the three Damon films.

To that effect he has been recruiting actors who aren’t Matt Damon but who did play important roles in the existing trilogy. Not long ago he pulled in Joan Allen and Albert Finney to reprise their roles, and now he’s got Scott Glenn back in the fold as well. The actor will once again play CIA director Ezra Kramer in The Bourne Legacy. But not until after he plays a part in Precious director Lee Daniels‘ new film The Paperboy. Read More »

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