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Film Studies 101
Feature
Lee Daniels On The Butler’s Presidents
A director's blow-by-blow on Cusack, Rickman and co

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Newly arrived in UK cinemas, Lee Daniels’ The Butler is part father-and-son yarn, part generation-spanning caboose through modern American history. It’s already a hit in the US and brings with it early Oscar buzz and a pair of stellar performances by Forest Whitaker as White House butler Cecil Gaines, and Oprah Winfrey as his stoical, forthright wife Gloria. If you’ve seen its poster, you’ll know it boasts more big names than a German aristocrat’s phone book, with five of them belonging to the actors playing the presidents served by Gaines: Robin Williams, Liev Schreiber, James Marsden, John Cusack and Alan Rickman. We asked Daniels to talk through them.

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Robin Williams As Dwight D. Eisenhower

Robin Williams reunited with his old Good Morning Vietnam co-star Forest Whitaker in a POTUS / butler relationship that saw Williams dialling back the Cronauer to capture the introspective, enigmatic figure. With his combover, glasses and penchant for painting florid landscapes, Eisenhower is the film’s entry point into the Oval Office and, says Daniels, its key president. “I knew the audience would be jarred by Robin Williams,” Daniels explains...

Robin Williams As Dwight D. Eisenhower

“The challenge for Robin was about losing ‘Robin Williams’. It was hard because Robin has a tendency to make you laugh, so we had to strip him bare and make him quiet. It took a minute for him to get out of his comfort zone, which is always to make you laugh, to make you happy. Because Robin is the first president we see, he’s carrying the torch for the believability of all the presidents. Because he’s the first, people’s reaction is like: ‘Oh, that’s where we’re going with this movie’. He was okay with the combover! It was more me trying to make sure it was perfect. [Ike’s] landscapes... well, they weren’t that great. I told Robin to just paint, because that’s what Ike did, so half of each painting we have in the film was his. They were all paint-by-numbers. (Empire suggests putting the paintings on eBay) Should I? I could make some money. That’s a good idea! I can donate it them to charity.”

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I thought robin Williams was playing Truman. More

Posted by seanofthedead on Friday November 15, 2013, 18:58


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