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Oprah returns to big screen in ‘The Butler’

  • Written by Kimberly C. Roberts

Oprah-butlerAcademy Award nominee Oprah Winfrey, who has not appeared in a film since the 1998 release "Beloved," will return to the big screen in Lee Daniels' "The Butler," a star-studded feature film inspired by a former White House butler.

Currently in production in New Orleans, "The Butler," starring Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, is based on a screenplay by Danny Strong and Daniels. It is inspired by Wil Haygood's Washington Post article about Cecil Gaines (Eugene Allen in real life), an African-American man who served as a butler to eight presidents in the White House for over 30 years.

From this unique vantage point, "The Butler" traces the dramatic changes that swept American society, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man's life and family.

Winfrey, who will play Gaines' wife, Gloria Gaines, received an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of Sophia in Steven Spielberg's "The Color Purple" and reportedly stepped away from the film industry after "Beloved," produced by Winfrey and directed by Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme, did not perform well at the box office. Over the years, however, she has provided voiceovers for the children's feature films "Charlotte's Web," "Bee Movie" and "The Princess and the Frog."

In 2010, Winfrey produced "Precious," the feature film that garnered a "Best Director" Oscar nomination for Daniels and the Academy Award for "Best Supporting Actress" for Mo' Nique.

Reports say that in "The Butler," the "sassy" Gloria Gaines is introduced when she is 22 years old, and ages to 90 as the film progresses.

The award-winning cast also includes Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard, Minka Kelly, Lenny Kravitz, Melissa Leo, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and Robin Williams.

"What moves me most about this man is his quiet nature, grace and unmatched perspective that comes from being in one place – a very powerful one – during what was arguably the period in history that saw the most change," Daniels said in a statement.

Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company (TWC), which acquired the U.S. rights from Butler Films to distribute "The Butler," said, "Lee tells stories in a way that no one else does. What struck me most about this story is the perspective it comes from, which in this case is the butler – a man who was a fly on the wall for decades in the world's most powerful home. It takes an unbelievable cast like the one that's in place to do this story justice, and we are proud to be given the chance to share this story with the world."

Producer Pamela Oas Williams added, "This has been a passion project for all involved and we are thrilled to be able to see Laura Ziskin's vision for this film realized and know it will be a lasting tribute to her incredible career."

"The Paperboy," Daniels' latest release features Macy Gray, Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman and John Cusack and is now in theaters.

(Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune)

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