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Hollywood and the film industry seem more confident in taking on the issue of slavery in a cinematic context. Last year saw Django Unchained and Lincoln prove popular, and this year will see more films of that ilk, including Lee Daniels' The Butler, which enjoyed its premiere last night (Monday, Aug 5) in New York.
Whitaker is The Butler
The film follows Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) – an African-American White House butler who, due to his close proximity, was privy to many of the political events that helped shaped contemporary America. The film is based on the real-life account of Eugene Allen.
Whitaker leads an eclectic cast, which includes Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Minka Kelly, Lenny Kravitz, Melissa Leo, Alan Rickman, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Liev Schreiber, and Robin Williams.
Winfrey, who plays a pivotal role in the film – Whitaker’s wife – was nervous about returning to acting after almost 15-years away from the big screen. She may have become one of the most powerful women in the world in that time, but that didn’t stop her feeling the pressure when she was asked to star in The Butler.
“It’s like having an instrument,” she said to ABC News. “You play the piano pretty well or you play a flute, you play the trombone, then all of a sudden you put it in a corner, cause you go, ‘I’m not going to do that anymore, I can’t, I don’t have time to do that,’ which is what I did, that’s your acting instrument.”
The Butler features an all-star cast from many backgrounds
The Oscars 2014 – which we know now will be hosted by Ellen DeGeneres – is looking like it’ll be dominated by films centred on racism and slavery. The Butler, while not specifically focusing on it, certainly tells the story of the struggle faced by Black people in America.
Twelve Years a Slave, too - Steve McQueen’s new film - tells the story of Solomon Northrup, who was born a free man but kidnapped into slavery, while Mandela – starring Idris Elba – focuses on racism in South Africa, charting the life of the legendary leader.
Forest Whitaker and Cuba Gooding Jr in The Butler
David Oyelowo and Lenny Kravitz star in The Butler
Inside The Whitehouse
Terrence Howard and Oprah Winfrey in The Butler