‘The Butler’ Trailer Offers A Different Perspective on U.S. History

Published 2 years ago by , Updated May 11th, 2013 at 11:02 am,

Eugene Allen spent 34 years working as a caretaker at the White House beginning in 1952; by the time Allen retired in 1986, he had served as the butler for a total of seven sitting U.S. presidents, starting with Dwight D. Eisenhower and ending on Ronald Reagan. This fall’s awards-bait release, The Butler, is a dramatization of his experiences, with Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker (The Last Stand) headlining as the eponymous protagonist inspired by Allen, who has been re-named Cecil Gaines in the film biopic.

Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo (Jack Reacher) costar as Gaines’ wife and his son, who find themselves at odds about their approach to social upheaval – the passive resistance favored by Civil Rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. versus more aggressive tactics preferred by organizations like the Black Panthers – and whether Cecil is part of the problem or the solution.

Rounding out the star-studded cast for The Butler is Oscar-winner Robin Williams as President Eisenhower, James Marsden (X-Men 1-3) as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber (Salt) as Lyndon B. Johnson, John Cusack (The Raven) as Richard Nixon and Alan Rickman (Harry Potter) and Jane Fonda as Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

butler movie trailer forest whitaker The Butler Trailer Offers A Different Perspective on U.S. History

Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. and Oscar-nominee Terrence Howard (Red Tails) play Cecil’s peers and co-workers at the White House; meanwhile, additional support is coming from acclaimed character actors/actresses like Melissa Leo (The Fighter), Lenny Kravitz (The Hunger Games) and Vanessa Redgrave (Atonement).

Most of the trailer for The Butler is spent just listing off members of the prestigious cast – that and emphasizing that Oprah’s in the movie – so much that, in fact, you might not catch that The Butler was directed by Lee Daniels (Precious). The script was co-written by Daniels and Danny Strong, who was the writer of HBO’s award-winning Sarah Palin memoir Game Change; he is also scripting both Part 1 and 2 of the upcoming The Hunger Games: Mockingjay movie adaptation.

Daniels and Strong have impressive resumes, but have been accused in the past of recklessly exploiting sensitive political and social issues by their detractors (see: the divisive reception for Daniels’ The Paperboy). There’s very much potential for The Butler to be something great; however, there’s also the chance it might turn out to be a miscalculated attempt to tell a fascinating real-life story – through the lens of a celebrity-filled Hollywood biopic, that is.


The Butler opens in U.S. theaters on August 16th, 2013.

Source: Yahoo! Movies

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  1. Oooooohh, yes! Bring it on! I have not felt such a dramagasm since Lincoln was released. But why change the name of the protagonist?

  2. Some of those actors are the most random choices I could imagine for those presidents

    • Agreed. I think Robert de Niro would have been a perfect Reagan, and George Clooney is a dead ringer for FDR. Can’t think who would have been a good JFK though.

      Jane Fonda is perfect for Nancy Reagan though. She is the person I would have cast for the role.

      • @Etrigan

        Really? Hanoi Jane is perfect for Nancy Reagan? I hope you were being sarcastic…

        • No, I was not being sarcastic. Jane Fonda has a strong physical resemblance to Nancy Reagan, is the right age, and is a very fine actress. Your point?

          • His point, my friend, is that it is comparable to Madonna being cast as a virgin. Hanoi Jane is an extreme leftist, and she was cast as the wife of one conservatism’s greatest figures. I don’t doubt that someone in Hollyweird got their “s–ts and giggles” from the pick.

            Now having said that, yes, she does, at least, look like Nancy Reagan, but she probably didn’t play the role with any regard or respect for her.

            • Y’all know that movies are just make believe, right? You know that Stallone can’t really wipe out an entire platoon with a machine gun and bow-and-arrow, right?

              • The entire point escapes you, Etrigan.

              • Perhaps one day, if you ever become known or famous yourself, they’ll get someone who despises you to play you, and that person will make a caricature out of you and exaggerate their misperceived notions of you, and then, you’ll understand.

                • You seem to know an awful lot about Jane Fonda, whom you’ve never met, and about her portrayal of Nancy, in a movie you haven’t seen.

                  Dude, some advice. Chill out. It’s just a movie.

                  • Fonda’s history is well documented, so I don’t have to meet her. Frankly, I wouldn’t cross the street to do so. Yes, she may surprise us and portray Nancy Reagan fairly, but I wouldn’t bet money on it.

                  • @Etrigan

                    There’s this real marvel of modern technology called a “search engine.” I know this is a new concept for most of us, so I’ll point out a few examples. There’s one called “google” another called “bing” and even one called “yahoo,” although that one sucks…

                    It’s amazing what technology can do, you can go to any one of those, and search for a key term, such as “Hanoi Jane” and read all about this person and why anyone with half a brain and has any knowledge of history knows that she will find a way to make Nancy Reagan appear bad, stupid, or both, simply because of her politics. But hey, I know if you’re afraid to try new things, you don’t have to…

    • On second thoughts, I think Brad Pitt would have been a good JFK. Strong resemblance with the right make up.

    • Actually, they are not random at all. They are the exact OPPOSITE of who SHOULD play those roles. I’m definitely not watching this movie with Robin Williams as Eisenhower and freakin Hanoi Jane as Nancy Reagan. I have nothing against Alan Rickman, but he’s also someone’s who’s adamantly against Ronald Reagan. The casting choices seem very deliberate. I wouldn’t be surprised if JFK is made out to be a saint while Eisenhower and the Reagans were made out to be bad people in this movie… Definitely not going to watch this…

      • I’m with you on this, Ken. It is a common tactic of those on the left to demonize and ridicule anyone with whom they disagree, and the casting choices here seem to point to that.

        • @Jeff

          And it’s not like there are not any choices out there. Kelsey Grammer would have knocked it out of the park as Eisenhower. But that would have made too much sense… Instead, they have to cast a very vocally anti-conservative comedian like Robin Williams to play him… I don’t think anyone with half a brain will think all of this is just coincidence and that it was done in good faith… Imagine if they hired Dennis Miller to play John F. Kennedy. I’m sure then there will be a big fuss over that…

  3. This looks gooood!

  4. So good! I’ve read about Percy. Now, I can’t wait to go watch his story–or Hollywood’s version of it.

  5. I was surprised to see Cuba Gooding Jr’s name there. This must be his first theatrical film role in a decade.

  6. Yup, definitely seeing this.

  7. Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo play Gaines’ wife and son, not mother and brother.

    • My apologies, you are correct. It’s been fixed.

  8. Oprah is 59, and Forrest 51, so no surprise that she looks like his mother. Should have cast someone younger.

  9. Definitely intrigued Eugene Allen’s story, but it’s treatment here looks SUPER heavy handed and…well, kinda schmaltzy; from the music in the trailer, to Oprah, to ‘cute’ lines like “…we have no tolerance for politics at the White House”. I’m not actually sure I could stand watching this.

  10. I worked for Gene Allen as a White House butler. My hope for this movie is that it captures the essence of the man. He was one of the nicest, most even tempered men I ever had the pleasure of knowing. The trailer, however, makes me wonder…