First Look at Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan in Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’

Published 3 years ago by , Updated July 15th, 2013 at 12:48 pm,

Though Lee Daniels has over a decade of filmmaking under his belt, he only has four directorial credits to his name – one of which was the Oscar-winnning Precious.

His newest film, The Butler, follows the life of a White House butler (Forest Whitaker) who served under several different Presidents throughout his 30-year career. Presidents like Dwight Eisenhower, JFK, and Lyndon B. Johnson were all served by the film’s main character, who is based on a real life White House butler.

While no official photos for The Butler have been released thus far, Oprah Winfrey (who plays the character of Gloria Gaines in the film) has tweeted out a photo of herself, Daniels, and two fellow cast members, Jane Fonda and Alan Rickman, on set. But Rickman and Fonda aren’t in their everyday attire in the photo – they’re actually made-up to look like Presidential power couple Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

For the film, Lee Daniels has the arduous task of casting actors that resemble eight different U.S. Presidents. We can’t say how the remaining actors will look in their respective roles, but based on this photo, we can say that Rickman and Fonda do a pretty good job. Rickman even has that trademark squint of the late Reagan (or perhaps that’s just the camera flash).

Along with Rickman as Reagan, the film features John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, and Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson. Without a doubt, it’s an eclectic choice of actors, some that probably wouldn’t have been our first or second choices when casting our nation’s iconic presidents. But given Rickman’s appearance in the above photo, we’re willing to give Daniels the benefit of the doubt.

Additionally, several photos of James Marsden (X-Men) as John F. Kennedy and Minka Kelly (Charlie’s Angels) as Jackie O appeared online in August, but they have since been taken down. The two look the part, but they aren’t posing like Fonda and Rickman. The set photos in question also included an image of Forest Whitaker as “the butler,” which can still be seen over at Variety.

Daniels isn’t revealing too much about The Butler, which will almost assuredly be a contender come awards season. Hopefully, a trailer is on the horizon – or more set photos – that will show us how each actor embodies a famous President.


Source: Oprah Winfrey’s Twitter

TAGS: The butler
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  1. Wow, that’s a bit of weird casting for the presidents. I don’t picture Cusack as Nixon or Williams as Ike whatsoever. Must be good makeup jobs. Have to see how it looks I guess.

    • @Maopheus

      It’s most likely the script is a very one-sided and biased view on the presidents, so they had to cast people who fully believed in the views they are trying to push, which is why all of these very vocal people from the same point of view are cast in this movie…

      • I absolutely agree. I mean, of all people, they cast Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan?! It’s as if they intentionally set out to offend conservatives, but that is par for course in Hollywood today. I’m sure the smug elitists there are getting their “s–ts and giggles” from it.

        • Did ya ever think maybe they are simply talented actors? And they do a great job playing these parts?

          • Uh, if it was maybe just one or MAYBE two of those people, then MAYBE. But do yourself a favor and get some knowledge about these specific actors. They are all pretty much activists in how extreme and vocal they are. There’s no way they all got clumped together like this by coincidence and by coincidence they are playing three conservatives… I guess you’ll be the juror in a court case for that believes that everything that points the blame onto the defendent is mere coincidence…

            Especially Jane Fonda, she’s not “pretty much” an activist, she IS an activist by every definition of the word. There is NO WAY IN HELL she will agree to play a conservative unless the script makes that conservative look like a lying d-bag b-tch…

            • Ack, playing four conservatives. Apparently I cannot count… lol

  2. Not for me.

  3. I’ll watch just about anything with Rickman in it. It will be interesting to see how much he talks and sounds like the Gipper.

  4. WOW, definitely not seeing this one. I already know what direction they are going. Look at the actors. Alan Rickman is a democrat, all of the Fondas are also democrats. Robin Williams, another democrat, John Cusack, another democrat, Oprah, another democrat… Basically, this will be a movie that will try to show how bad Eisenhower, Nixon, and Reagan were as presidents and as people… I can already see it…

    I know that most of Hollywood are liberals, but when the cast is so stacked one-sided with very vocal liberals like these, you know they have a political motivation for the movie, and how the characters they are playing are mostly Conservatives, you already know this will just be a biased bash movie… No thanks…

    • You’re right. I rescind my earlier interest in seeing the movie. But I still like Rickman as an actor.

      I do have one nit picky comment. Rickman undoubtedly sympathizes with the Democrats but being British he can’t actually be one.

    • Yeah, we kinda saw this happen with The Iron Lady already and that was a terrible movie.

      I love Rickman, but I’ll be skipping this one as well.

  5. Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan??? That’s insulting.

    • no obama 2016 is insulting…jane fonda as nancy regan is a low blow by this director for what looks like a liberal movie.

    • I agree, probably cast that way to make some of us mad… Jane Fonda is no Nancy Reagan… I like Alan Rickman but how about Mitt Romney playing Reagan he would have been a great choice!

      • I think Romney is a bit busy now. Also, he’s not an actor.

      • No way, Romney is no Reagan… But speaking of Reagan as a president, not who can play him in a movie or not, it’ll be quite some time before we find a politician running for president that can be compared to Reagan. Personally I kind of see Mike Huckabee as the closest thing to a modern Reagan… Too bad he’s not running…

      • Hopefully, Romney will get to play president in real life!

  6. Rickman looks great. Not sure about the rest of the cast, but I never would’ve guessed Rickman as Reagan, so I’ll wait to see how they look.

    • He looks a bit like one of the Baldwins. :)

      • Haha good call

  7. Have to say, pretty amazing job for Rickman turning into Reagan. As mentioned, it’s an interesting cast and not exactly names I would expect with roles.

    As for the political side of it, I truly hope that the focus is kept on the butler’s experiences and doesn’t delve too much into the politics. I think it’s an interesting concept to get an “everyday” person’s perspective from the inside.

  8. I agree with the statement Nautius made. Also, it struck me as interesting that a random site posts images and they’re made to remove them. Oprah does it & nothing is said.

    As for the movie, there are several actors in this whose work I do enjoy. Cusack is enough for me to lose interest in the project, though. I respect his right to say and behave how he feels but I won’t spend money in support of his projects.

  9. You know I am a big screenrant fan, but this is one day I must say I am dissappointed in the recent comments in regards to this film. No so much in screenrant but just when you think “we” as a country has advanced as a culture, you have these backwoods statements that showcase “implicitness” all over that reminds us that the forest isn’t that far behind!

    I mean really, regardless of your politically standing creatively you have yet to see the movie. So I mean give it a chance before you began to place your pre-concieved notions upon the film. It’s the same debilitating mindsets that has caused the irresponsible gridlock on capital hill that has prevented this country from moving forward!

    At least the for fathers idealogy was in the right place by creating a seperation of power to help facilitate balance in the government that would cause general consensus that would be the best interest of the majority. The saddest component is that the majority of Americans believe and desire the same moral, political, and economic outcome but because of the extreme minorities on both sides of the fence continuing to drown out the majority further generating a polarization that is sinking the US into an unyielding moral and economic quicksand.

    All I’m saying is let up on selfish notions that only serve individual purposes, but further politicize and alienate society in ways that seek to separate and sends us backwards. As one go, we all go ’cause we’re all in this together!!

    • You should send your comments to our president, the divider-in-chief. There is little debating that, whether intentional or not, he has served to pit poor against rich, black against white, old against young, etc.

      • @INK

        Thanks for posting that link. I can’t believe someone like that can still find work. It amazes me how Hollywood will praise traitors like her and then “punish” other actors just for being open about being of a political party different than what’s “accepted” in Hollywood…

      • Im not an American, (so got a bit confused about the hate for Fonda) But if this link tells the truth then Im now a hater of Fonda too. There is no way that you can excuse this behaviour.

        • @Ruthy

          Yah, that’s something pretty well known about Jane Fonda. I think her nickname is Hanoi Jane…

          • yeah just read up about it, and my mum also confirmed that! So yeah I think its an insult that she was cast as Nancy Reagan too!

    • It seems to me you are just blind to what is really happening in this country today. This film will be a mockery. Why else would they cast these specific people in these roles? I wish we, as a nation, were united. But in the end we are not. You can blame hollywood and the media for that one. This movie will add fuel to the fire. I will not see it.

      • +1

        The casting is so specific it cannot just be a coincidence…

    • @black duv

      Yah, let’s just ignore when Obama had a Democrat controlled congress. Nothing to “gridlock” anything… Go back to school kid. The motivations of this movie is pretty clear from the casting, you wouldn’t be arguing this if it was the other way around and a whole bunch of known and vocal conservatives were in a movie playing a bunch of Democrat presidents. You’d be singing the same tune, and honestly, so would I. I personally like objectivity, not this biased crap or the biased crap from you. So go back to playing Xbox while wearing your Obama shirt and stop trying to act like you know anything about politics…

  10. Having a Traitor like Fonda play Nancy Reagan is an insult to both her and America’s greatest president.
    Boycott this garbage.

  11. I suppose if you’re going to tell the story of an African-American butler to the most powerful men in the world, all white, then it’s obviously going to have a particular political point of view. Doesn’t matter whether he’s Democrat or Republican, the President is not going to be able to relate to a common man like a butler in the same way that he does another head of state or high-ranking person. I suppose this movie is going to show that relationship. Of course it can’t possibly show things evenly or fairly. A President may have been rude or unkind to him but generous and warm with someone else.

    • @Maopheus

      And to assume that the president would be rude to him just because he is a minority is pretty dumb. I REALLY doubt Reagan and Eisenhower were a-holes in real life. Are you going to say that Obama must be really rude to all of the whie people working under him??

  12. Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan… Yeah im sure that will work out fine.

  13. This is a film that asks to be taken seriously yet
    the casting destroys any pretense of seriousness.
    Nancy Reagan played by Jane Fonda and Williams
    as Ike sounds like a skit from Saturday Night Live.

    • @Robert Palmar

      I agree with you 100%.

      But actually, not even Saturday Night Live would have something this insulting in my opinion. They are better than that… Maybe something lower class like Mad TV or Family Guy or something…

      • I can see an actor like Liev Schreiber approaching this as a sort of theatre-based performance, same with Forest Whitaker. I can’t think of a single movie role where he didn’t bring dignity to his part. They say the gentleman the movie is based upon served eight of our Presidents. Does anyone know if all are represented?

        There are casting choices here that are easily questionable, regardless of political affiliation. It’s very similar to some of the roles Sean Penn has chosen. Any potential political motives aside, the everyday behavior of some of the involved cast members speak volumes.

  14. Everybody just wait for the movie before throwing stones…you MIGHT be surprised… This is why things are so polarized today…everyone’s willing to believe the worst right off the bat, there are no shades, no middle ground, and this thread is proof.

  15. Ha ha, so politics dictates which movies to watch in the US eh? All of these actors voted for this person so therefore it will have a ‘spin’ on it, my god listen to yourselves!!! Its a movie based upon the words of the presidents themselves, either 100% accurate or lies, either way its a movie and these actors are paid to do a job and not put a political spin on it. You will all end up watching this movie anyway at some point just to see how poor it will be. Alan Rickman is top notch, and from these shores (again, an iconic roll taken by a Brit) – Cant wait to see Superman :)

    • Chris, don’t know where you are from or how old you are, but you impress as being quite naive. “These actors are paid to do a job and not put a political spin on it”…?! Last I heard, reporters were supposed to be that way, too, but personal bias and spinning is inherent pretty much everywhere these days, from the editing room, wherein people decide was stories to air, to the reporters, who decide what questions to ask and how to ask them. Watch MSNBC, for example, and you’ll see “spin” in full form. Just this morning, for instance, rather than reporting on the riots in the Middle East and our government’s response to it, they spent 45 minutes (from what I saw, as I was flipping in and out) discussing why they felt our presidential candidate Mitt Romney should not have spoken out about it, his alleged lack of foreign policy experience (as if Obama had any before he became president), and how it would affect him in the polls, etc. So you see, it is just as likely for a group of liberal movie producers, directors, and actors to get together and put their spin on a movie about a butler who served the presidents, and the evidence in this is clearly the actors who were chosen to play the parts. Friend, get your head out of the sand!

      • I don’t profess to know anything about US politics as I am very happy in England where we elect our leaders on substance and policies and not personality and patriotic speeches.

        I was in the US when Arnold schwarzenegger was elected as governor of California where the other candidate (forget his name, Phil something) was the much better candidate in terms of policies and experience, it was a massive joke. I understand where you are coming from but the movie will not be biased as this will poison half of the US against the film company making it and, in these difficult times, I just don’t see a film company signing off a film from only one stand point. Money talks in Tinseltown.

        I’m 34 by the way.

        • I highly doubt your politics in England differs much from our politics here, as people everywhere have the potential to succumb to “cult of personality”. I also highly doubt that you don’t have biased media outlets over there, although it is perhaps not as prevalent as it is here, as our mainstream media seems to bend predominantly in one direction (left) over another (right). As concerns Hollywood and their concern for the bottom dollar, that is, in fact, the norm, but there is an arrogant segment in Hollywood that cares less about money, or perhaps at least equally as much, as they do about getting their “message” out and “educating” the masses to their “enlightened” point of view.

        • @Chris

          I think you kind of forgot the fact that Hollywood is predominantly liberal… So making a liberal movie will not “poison” anything since they’ve been doing that on a regular basis. Why do you think The Hurt Locker won an Oscar? Because it’s a “realistic” depiction of war in Iraq?? LMAO!!!! Politics have been ruling Hollywood for quite some time. You’re obviously completely oblivious to this, yet you still choose to reply condescendingly as if you know more than the rest of us. And you know there are plenty of politics in your parliament and your media as well, but seeing as how you’re so blind to everything I bet you don’t notice any of it… Well, congrats on living the life of blissful ignorance. I don’t pity you, I envy you, that’s the way to live, just la-di-da, the world is so pretty…

    • @Chris

      WOW, you are so naive. You must live the epitome of “ignorance is bliss” don’t you? Well, congrats, I wish I can be where you are again, but that time has long passed…

  16. @ChrisTypreR

    “I just don’t see a film company signing off a film from only one stand point. Money talks in Tinseltown.”

    Then yes, you are very naive about the lengths Hollywood will go in order to further an agenda.

    • @INK

      Yah, it’s kind of cute to see that there are still people who go on with their lives completely oblivious to the things around them isn’t it? Actually made me smile a little after reading his comments. Ah, I kind of remember when I was so naive… Although that was a VERY long time ago. Unfortunately I was awakened to how things really are fairly early on in life… Would have loved to have lived my blissfully ignorant life a little bit longer…

  17. Think you will find I am neither naive or ignorant thank you very much.

    • Its also insulting that you seem to have made this assumption over one movie comment, I am commenting on THIS movie, not all movies and life in general. Using the California example was to prove a point only and not to appear ‘condescending’. I hear a lot the Barack Obama is useless, why was he voted in? we have 3 useless candidates on general election day and you choose to vote on the policies they bring to the table, the masses in this country read the newspapers and a lot will be swayed on what they are force fed, that is very true but the majority of voters are educated and can make an informed decision. My point is that this movie is about several presidents throughout 30 years, all of varying political views and allegiances, something like the hurt locker is a film about war – there will be political messages there – Ronald Regan was a Democrat, if he was given a Republican spin there would be outrage in the US – This film is very different to most others as it is dealing directly with our topic head on, no hidden agenda.

      Just saying and we are all entitled to our views.

      • Ah…now wait…Ronald Reagan was a democrat?! Really?! I’ll assume that was a just a misstatement on your part. As concerns voting “on the policies they bring to the table”, about half our country may do that, but the other half just tends to vote for the guy who will give them the most stuff, at everyone else’s expense.

      • @Chris

        Um, yah, I’ll give you a pass on the Reagan is a Democrat statement because you’re not American… But for the record, Reagan was a Republican… Thanks… All of the presidents mentioned in this article that will be in the film are Republican except for JFK, and all of them are played by actors who have been very active and vocal in the political scene for the other side… Most actors don’t really make their political affiliations known, because they are not really relevent to their acting, but there are some that actively go out on the political scene. And this movie’s cast is pretty much all made up of those specific individuals. I mean, you have freakin’ Hanoi Jane who made it seem to the public that the North Vietnamese were the real victims, that the American POW’s were treated well and are lying about being tortured and starved, and pretty much stirred up public negative sentiment toward America at the time. Which resulted in a lot of riots and protests that also resulted in many injuries and deaths here in the USA that could have been avoided without her lies to try to stir the pot and to support Communism. Do you really think a person like that would volunteer to play the role of a conservative like Nancy Reagan if the script doesn’t make her out to be a bad person??? Come on, use your common sense…

  18. Dam, thought I’d got the regan one!! Ah well. And I agree, Jane Fonda don’t have many fans over here either including myself. We heard about all the crap she came out with, unbelievable – actually surprised she got another job to be honest

    • Ah…now you are beginning to use your noodle! Haha. Yes, ask yourself how Jane Fonda, a communist sympathizer and far left liberal, who is widely despised both here and there, got a job playing Nancy Reagan, the wife of Ronald Reagan, one of the most beloved and influential conservative leaders of our time. Having Madonna play Mother Theresa would be comparable, and as I said before, the lefties in Hollywood are likely getting their “s–ts and giggles” from it.

  19. I’d forgotten how much I love SR comment threads that turn into political “discussions”.