Lee Daniels Could Get Oprah Winfrey Back in Movies with 'The Butler'
by Ethan Anderton
February 15, 2012
Talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey made her acting debut in 1985 with The Color Purple and raked in an Oscar nomination. However, since then, Winfrey has only starred in a handful of movies, and within the past decade, she has only provided her voice to characters in films like Charlotte's Web and The Princess and the Frog. Now THR has word that she might make her return to live-action films for the first time since starring in Beloved back in 1998. The film is Lee Daniels' gestating project The Butler, the dramatic adaptation of Wil Haygood's 2008 Washington Post story A Butler Well Served by This Election.
The film follows the story of Eugene Allen, a servant in the White House who worked through eight presidents from Harry S. Truman to Ronald Reagan. The article follows his work from starting at the White House as a "pantry man" in 1952, when blacks weren't allowed to use public restrooms in his native Virginia all the way through various historical events like the Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, and finally the election of President Barack Obama. It sounds like there's definitely the makings of an Oscar winning film here.
At this time, only an offer is on the table for Winfrey to play Allen's wife, who sadly passed away just before Election Day in 2008, and no deals have been made officially yet. This won't be the first time Winfrey has worked with Daniels as she was also integral in getting the Best Picture nominated Precious off the ground as an executive producer. Another Oscar nomination could very well be in Winfrey future if all goes well.
In addition to her potential involvement, apparently Hugh Jackman, John Cusack, Mila Kunis and David Oyelowo are also being lined up to star. Oyelowo, who is working on The Paperboy with Daniels, would play the titular butler while Cusack could potentially play Richard Nixon and Kunis is wanted for Jackie Kennedy. Jackman's role is currently unknown, but his involvement seems likely since he was already slated to work with Daniels in Selma before the project fell apart. It's quite an assembly of talent for what seems to be a truly remarkable journey through history from the viewpoint of a simple worker inside the White House during some of the most trying times our nation has ever seen. Stay tuned.