The Most Fascinating Story with the Most Star-Studded Cast of All-Time?
The cast for Lee Daniels’s The Butler, slated to begin production at the end of July (aka now) is astounding: John Cusack as Richard Nixon; Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower; James Marsden as JFK; Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan; Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson; Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan; Jesse Williams as Rev. James Larson; Melissa Leo as Mamie Eisenhower; Minka Kelly as Jackie O and the list goes on and on… including Oprah Winfrey, Nicole Kidman, Alex Pettyfer, Cuba Gooding Jr., Forest Whitaker, Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, Vanessa Redgrave, and many more. Today, with the headlines that Nelsan Ellis (Lafayette from True Blood) was cast to play Martin Luther King, Jr., I had to check out what this film was all about. And I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised.
It’s a movie telling a story that is hardly known. I must admit – despite being someone who reads far too much on the internet, the Washington Post article even eluded me until yesterday, nearly four years after it was originally published. I first heard about this movie a week ago when stumbling upon news about Minka Kelly’s sex tape problems. It seemed the at-times-controversial director of Precious (which I loved) was about to start filming a new movie called The Butler which had lil’ Miss Lyla Garrity playing Jackie O. Fascinating, but no reason looking it up. But after finding out Lafayette would be MLK, I had to go looking on IMDB to see what this was all about. And I found what’s possibly the most star-studded cast ever. So what’s this story about that gathers this many stars playing characters from the entire 2nd half of the 20th century?
It seems Daniels got his inspiration from a Washington Post piece in the days following President Obama’s election in November 2008 (which may explain how I somehow didn’t manage to read it). But, politics aside, the piece is well worth a read. I’m so excited about the prospect of this movie and the story in the article (YOU CAN READ THE ARTICLE HERE). For those of you that don’t click on my links or want to read a longer piece, here’s the quick synopsis…
The story follows Eugene Allen, an African-American man unknown to history until this article in 2008. Mr. Allen worked in the White House for more than three decades, serving eight Presidents along the way, from Truman through Reagan. The article tells his story, viewing history at the White House as a humble worker. But his race made his perspective even different, as he viewed the up-and-down roller coaster ride that was the relationship between the presidency/The White House and the black community. As the article points out, he was there to quietly witness every step along the bumpy road as America’s racial history was being remade.
It sounds like the butler’s story is one of those great untold tales in American history. Reading the article was an absolute treat and I can only trust that Daniels’s film will bring it even more recognition and resonance for generations to come.