Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

The film with the most amazing cast ever

The Butler, Lee Daniels’s follow-up to The Paperboy, already strains credulity with some hilarious casting decisions.

Tue, Apr 2, 2013, 23:02


You’ve recovered from your encounter with Lee Daniels’s The Paperboy. You’ve just about wiped the memory of Nicole Kidman peeing on Zac Efron from your brain. That scene with the simulated oral sex has been buried as deep as it will go. Well, prepare yourself for more shocks. Mr Daniels, Oscar-nominated for Precious, has almost finished shooting his ¬†follow-up to that sweaty hunk of southern gothic. The Butler springs from an interesting idea. Based on the life of one Eugene Allen, the picture — nearly in the can, we believe — follows the career of an African-American butler who served every president from Truman to Reagan (that’s eight, right?).

Forest Whitaker sounds plausible as the lead. He may chew some of the furniture as he’s polishing it, but he’s a good actor. After that things get weird. The fresh 45-year-old Liev Schreiber plays the gnarled 55-year-old (at least) Lyndon Johnson. Unamusing hysteric Robin Williams plays buttoned-up Dwight D Eisenhower. Jane Fonda is Nancy Reagan? The former first lady, still with us at 91, may have a heart attack at the news. We could go on, but we’ll just give you the cast list…

Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines
Alex Pettyfer as Thomas Westfall
John Cusack as Richard Nixon
Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower
Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan
James Marsden as John F. Kennedy
Minka Kelly as Jackie Kennedy
Lenny Kravitz as James Holloway
Jesse Williams as Rev. James Lawson
Cuba Gooding, Jr. as Carter Wilson
Mariah Carey as Hattie Pearl
Oprah Winfrey as Gloria Gaines
Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson
Nelsan Ellis as Martin Luther King, Jr.
Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan
Melissa Leo as Mamie Eisenhower
Terrence Howard as Howard
Vanessa Redgrave as Annabeth Westfall

It really is like something from a South Park parody. Hang on. John Cusack as Richard Nixon. Even if he weren’t a decade too young, Cusack could never manage that cube-headed, paranoid menace. Why, you might as well cast Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan. Oh, they have. Combine that cast with Daniels’s taste for over-egged, high-mercury melodrama and you have the makings of quite a party. Heck, even Oprah Winfrey is along for the ride. However The Butler turns out, it is unlikely to be in any way dull. There is an outside chance we’ll get to see it at Cannes. Keep watching the Screen. We’ll let you know.