Moviegoers well-acquainted with Oscar-nominated director Lee Daniels’ eyebrow-raising filmic oeuvre may be shocked to learn that his latest movie, “The Butler,” seems, at first blush, rather short on salacious surprises. This from the guy who had Nicole Kidman urinate on Zac Effron’s face in last year’s lurid drama “The Paperboy” and had Mo’Nique hurl a frying pan at Gabourey Sidibe’s head (en route to claiming an Academy Award) in 2009’s “Precious.”
"The Butler" centers on Cecil Bates (Forrest Whitaker), an unsung, Forrest Gump-like hero who's an eyewitness to history and whose story is based on the real-life White House servant Eugene Allen. Allen, who attended eight sitting presidents in 34 years, retired in 1986.
Choc-a-block with surging violin swells and slow-mo tracking shots, a trailer for “The Butler” hit the Web on Tuesday highlighting the sweeping drama’s impressive ensemble cast. John Cusack portrays Richard Nixon, Robin Williams is Dwight D. Eisenhower and Jane Fonda plays Nancy Reagan. Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey, Vanessa Redgrave, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Minka Kelly, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Liev Schreiber and Alan Rickman turn up in supporting parts.
Oprah Winfrey appears in a buzzy role that fairly screams Oscar bait as Allen’s long-suffering wife -- her first on-screen movie appearance since 1998's "Beloved" -- in the film, due out Oct. 18 from the Weinstein Co.