Lee Daniels Might Direct 'The Butler' Instead of 'Selma' Next
Though there have been numerous casting updates for Lee Daniels' civil rights drama Selma throughout the year, apparently getting financing for the film has proven to be a bit of a challenge. However Deadline is reporting that Daniels has just closed a deal with Sony Pictures to re-write and direct The Butler, a drama which tells the story of Eugene Allen, a servant in the White House who worked through eight presidents from Harry S. Truman to Ronald Reagan. But if the full financing for Selma doesn't come through soon, this new project may be Daniels' next and he's already been talking to Denzel Washington about starring in it.
Allen had his story recounted in a series of articles by The Washington Post's Wil Haygood which prompted an extended invitation to Allen to attend the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Although he was a servant in the White House, Allen was certainly regarded as a friend to the presidents for which he worked. The article recounts several facts which really show you the kind of man Allen was in his life and his work. Truman called him Gene while Ford would talk golf with the man. And when tragedy struck in the form of John F. Kennedy's assassination, Allen was invited to the funeral. However, he declined to attend because, "someone had to be at the White House to serve everyone after they came from the funeral." As a token of gratitude, Jackie Kennedy gave Allen one of JFK's neckties which he has since had framed. This sounds like one respectable man and one hell of a role for Washington if he takes it.
Daniels will start working on the script right away. If Selma ends up not getting the cash it needs, Deadline says The Butler has the potential to shoot before the year is out. Either way, it sounds like Daniels will have quite a powerful follow-up to his much praised work on Precious. Personally, I think he still has something to prove as a director if only because much of the power behind Precious came from the hard-hitting drama and performances. Obviously the director works to get the performances, but the film was presented rather blandly and without vision. I still have great respect for him, but I'd like to see him be a bit more creative.