Winning the box office’s top positions several weeks in a row, the film Lee Daniels’ The Butler has gained strong attention from critics and audiences alike with The New York Times calling it “a brilliantly truthful movie.” The motion picture, which is written by and stars School of Dramatic Arts alumni, has even drawn significant Oscar buzz from the media, such as the Los Angeles Times and The Hollywood Reporter.
“I’m incredibly proud of the movie,” SDA alumnus and The Butler writer Danny Strong (BA ’96) told the Huffington Post. “The movie was such a labor of love for so many of us. I think Lee’s done a wonderful job. It’s definitely not just another writing job.”
The Butler features alumnus and Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (’82) as lead character Cecil Gaines, a fictional White House butler based Eugene Allen who served seven presidential administrations. Whitaker stars alongside Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Liev Schrieber, Alan Rickman, Jane Fonda and John Cusack.
“For me, this is the most specific work I’ve ever done, and possibly one of the most difficult roles I’ve ever played. … But honestly, I was grateful, because at that point I needed a challenge like this for myself as an artist. I needed to be afraid. Being afraid is good. I knew I was going into new territory. I thought maybe I’ll expand myself,” Whitaker told the Huffington Post.
Strong also wrote and produced the critically acclaimed HBO film Game Change about the 2008 presidential election – starring Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Woody Harrelson – which earned him two Emmys, a Golden Globe, the Producers Guild Award and the Writers Guild Award.
Strong has also written The Lost Symbol, the third film in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code series, and is writing Mockingjay: Part 1 and Part 2, the final two films in The Hunger Games series. On stage, the actor has appeared in more than 50 plays and musicals in the Los Angeles area, and has also appeared in many popular television shows and films from the past two decades. He will next be seen in Terrence Malick’s Knight Of Cups and appears in The Butler.
An actor, producer and director, Whitaker has acted in more than 100 roles in television and film – including Platoon, Bird, Criminal Minds and The Shield – and has directed films such as Waiting to Exhale and Hope Floats. He won an Academy Award, Golden Globe and BAFTA for his performance as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in the film The Last King of Scotland. He recently produced the film Fruitvale Station, which won in the dramatic categories for Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and executive produced the documentary I Am You.
About the film
Lee Daniels’ The Butler tells the story of a White House butler who served seven American presidents over three decades. The film traces the dramatic changes that swept American society during this time, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected this man’s life and family. Forest Whitaker stars as the butler with Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, and many more. Academy Award® nominated Lee Daniels (Precious) directs and Emmy®-award winning Danny Strong (Game Change) wrote the script.