When Lee Daniels signed on to direct The Butler, it was unclear how Wil Haygood’s “Washington Post” article would be converted into cinematic storytelling. There was a lot of room for maneuvering. Although deft and interesting, there are about a dozen different tones that could emerge from the profile of White House butler Eugene Allen — who served eight presidents from Truman to Reagan and is played here by Forest Whitaker.
Judging from the trailer, Daniels and screenwriter Danny Strong swung for the fences.
It’ll be fascinating to see how they’ve packed so many trenchant, racially-charged years of American history into an intimately human story. Allen was born in 1919 and would live to see Barack Obama elected president. That’s not merely a lot of time to cover; considering the loaded symbolism, the people who sat behind the Resolute desk while Allen was stacking champagne, and his rich personal struggle with the paperwork behind shuffled on Capitol Hill, Daniels and the production have their work cut out for them here.
Of course there’s also John Cusack, whose face looks like its about to explode playing Richard Nixon. Check out the trailer for yourself:
The Butler sees theaters October 18th.