Very few people (if anybody) think of Oprah Winfrey as an actress. Talk show host, entrepreneur, occasional self-parody, sure, but I’ve never heard her referred to as “the woman from The Color Purple and Beloved.” It might have something to do with the fact that Jonathan Demme‘s 1998 picture was actually her last role of any kind — but that might not be the case for long.
According to THR, Winfrey is currently being courted by Lee Daniels to return for The Butler, his tale of White House… butler Eugene Allen, who served eight U.S. Presidents from 1952 to 1986 and saw the social climate change firsthand at the same time. Winfrey is currently being eyed for Allen’s wife, Helene, as Daniels‘ The Paperboy star David Oyelowo is mulling over the chance to play the titular subject. (Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Reagan, would have to be the eight, in case you wanted to know.)
Based on Wil Haygood‘s Washington Post story A Butler Well Served by This Election, we described this project as such back in August of 2010:
“[The story follows] Eugene Allen […] a servant in the White House over 34 years, Allen watched the eight presidents he worked for wrestle with and finally stem the tide of segregation. The film is based on a series of articles written on Butler by Wil Haygood. After Haygood’s first article, the long-retired Allen was invited to be a guest at the inauguration of the country’s first African American president, Barack Obama, bringing his experience full circle.”
The last time we told you all this, Daniels was in the midst of rewriting Danny Strong‘s (Recount, Game Change) script; Denzel Washington was wanted to play Allen — as he’s wanted to play, well, everybody — though he was, ultimately, just one of the many names to be mentioned in conjunction with The Butler at some point.
Now, he’s cobbled together a wonderful potential list of talent: Hugh Jackman is eyed to take an unspecified part (probably a President); Mila Kunis is wanted for Jackie Kennedy; and John Cusack, who also starred in The Paperboy, is possibly playing Richard Nixon. Their names have all “surfaced,” whatever that might mean.
Despite casting and financing still being a little up in the air, THR notes that Oyelowo and Winfrey should be confirmed or denied “in the next week and a half.” I wouldn’t mind seeing it come together with this cast and team, personally speaking, so I’m actually kind of hoping that a Lee Daniels movie can pull itself together. Weird.
Would you be up for Oprah’s acting return? What are your basic thoughts on the material and casting?
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