Cannes 2012: Matthew McConaughey, Cuba Gooding Jr. Circle Lee Daniels' 'The Butler' (Exclusive)
Lee Daniels' White House historical drama The Butler -- toplining Forest Whitaker -- is taking shape, with IM Global coming aboard to sell international rights.
A number of new names have surfaced in connection to the project, including Matthew McConaughey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard and Alan Rickman. Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack and Jane Fonda already are aboard. CAA packged the film and is representing North American rights.
IM Global will launch The Butler to foreign buyers at the upcoming Cannes film market. Daniels will be a major presence on the Croisette; his upcoming film The Paperboy -- also starring McConaughey and Cusack -- makes its world premiere this month at the Cannes Film Festival, where it's playing in competition.
Laura Ziskin Productions and Cassian Elwes are producing The Butler, which is based on Wil Haygood's Washington Post article about Eugene Allen, a black man who worked in the White House for eight presidents, beginning in 1952. Hilary Schor also is a producer on the film.
Allen, who will be played by Whitaker, had a unique front-row seat as political and racial history were being made -- from the civil rights movement and Vietnam War to the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.
Haygood's story was published Nov. 7, 2008, just after the election of President Obama. Allen and his wife of 65 years marveled that a black man could be president. But on Election Day, Allen cast his vote alone; his wife had died the day before. Winfrey will play Allen's wife in The Butler.
Danny Strong and Daniels wrote the script. Many of the roles might be cameos.
The Butler would mark Winfrey's first appearance in a live-action movie since Beloved, the Jonathan Demme-directed drama adapted from a Toni Morrison book.
Winfrey also worked with Daniels on the director’s 2009 indie Precious, coming on board to executive produce the adaptation of the Sapphire novel Push. The gritty drama, which benefited from hefty promotion on The Oprah Winfrey Show, grossed $63.6 million worldwide, received six Oscar nominations including best picture and won two.
Daniels, McConaughey, Gooding and Howard are repped by CAA.