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Lee Daniels’ The Butler, starring Oscar winner Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, marks a high-profile return to production for Icon UK Group, the newly revamped producer/financier structure for the British-based company. Inspired by the life of Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served eight American presidents during the course of four decades, the project is billed as a historical epic.
Matthew McConaughey stars as John F. Kennedy, John Cusack will play Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman is Ronald Reagan and Jane Fonda plays Nancy Reagan. Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Lenny Kravitz and Terrence Howard also co-star.
Icon’s move to co-produce marks the company’s first step into the production business after it appointed Aviv Giladi as CEO of the Icon U.K. group of companies and shuttered its distribution operations in November. Icon U.K. Group, owned by Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, is looking to mount “sizable” projects in the $15 million to $20 million range.
Giladi announced his company’s involvement in The Butler.
Written by Danny Strong and Daniels, the film is based on Wil Haygood’s Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election,” which was published Nov. 7, 2008.
A Laura Ziskin production, it will be produced by Pam Williams, Ziskin and Daniels, with Cassian Elwes and Hilary Shor executive producing. Giladi and Blavatnik act as executive producers for Icon in what a spokesperson described as a “substantial” investment in the project from Icon.
CAA packaged the film and is handling North American sales, and the film is being represented by IM Global for international sales during the Marche du Film.
“This project awes me,” Daniels said. “The scope and magnitude of the father-and-son story moves me to tears. Bringing this essential black history to the screen is a terrifying and exhilarating challenge.”
Daniels is in Cannes to promote his first Competition film, The Paperboy, starring Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, McConaughey and Cusack.
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