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'I Felt Like I Directed The Film In Handcuffs And A Muzzle' - Lee Daniels On 'The Butler'

by Tambay A. Obenson
January 24, 2013 12:44 PM
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"It’s very un-Precious and un-Paperboy... I can’t go into my bag of tricks on this one: no urination, no baby falling down the stairs, no cursing at all. We only have one ‘f---,’ which Lyndon Johnson gets. I felt like I directed the film in handcuffs and a muzzle."

Lee Daniels talking to The Hollywood Reporter about his upcoming PG13-rated The Butler, which will be a first for him - films he's directed that were rated PG13.

He did warn at Cannes last year, when The Paperboy premiered that "I’m trying to keep it [The Butler] PG13 which is not easy for me."

Meanwhile, as you might also recall, Harry Lennix, who said he was offered a part in The Butler, after he read the script, called it "N*ggerfied... Historical Porn."

Despite what Lenix said, I'm curious to see what a handcuffed and muzzled Lee Daniels work might look like.

The film is scripted to cover several decades in the life of Eugene Allen, the White House butler who served many presidents, and is loaded with a cast that includes: Forest WhitakerOprah WinfreyDavid Oyelowo, John CusackAlan Rickman, Jane Fonda, Melissa Leo,Liev SchreiberJesse Williams, Mariah CareyYaya DaCosta, and many more.

Music for the film will be composed by the legendary Quincy Jones.

Laura Ziskin Production, The Butler is being produced by Pamela Oas Williams, the late Laura Ziskin, Lee Daniels, and Cassian Elwes; executive produced by Hilary Shor and Adam Merims; and co-produced by David Jacobson.

For our thoughts on the film's script, and casting, read Vanessa's script review HERE, and Natasha's casting close-up of the film HERE.

No release date yet, but it's expected this year.

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  • LeonRaymond | January 26, 2013 3:16 PMReply

    @CAREYCAREY I did not have a point of contention. I was agreeing that I did not see Lee Daniels films in the light of him having or that he should pull back. And my reference was that across 110 street was much more raw of film for it's time if folks want to see something raw and truly with some raw cinematic moments that's all I was saying no argument here

  • CareyCarey | January 26, 2013 4:04 PM

    @ Leon **Big Smile** I sure am glad we're agreeing because the only thing I remember about the movie "across 110 street" is the song by Bobby Womack. Tarantino also used it in Jackie Brown.

  • FlowJoe | January 24, 2013 11:16 PMReply

    I'm sorry, but Lee Daniel's films have been some of the most HONEST depictions of people of all races in some of the most REAL LIFE situations that emit DRAMA ever to grace the silver screen. Most dramatic cinema is NOT representative of real life drama!! Keep on keepin' on Lee!!

  • CareyCarey | January 25, 2013 10:20 AM

    Flow on, flow on, FLOWJOE! I believe you've said what many do not want to accept. And, trite but true, the truth will set you free. I mean, I don't understand what's so hard to understand about that--> "Lee Daniel's films have been some of the most HONEST depictions of people of all races in some of the most REAL LIFE situations that emit DRAMA."

    Remember Mo 'nique in Precious? Wasn't she the epitome of every abusive mother in the world, white and black? In every detail, Mo 'nique captured my vision of the quintessential angry, hostile, uneducated, vicious, manipulative, cunning and insecure woman. Read it there and you'll find it fair, in this case, Mo 'nique's character had no color. In this case, she was just being played by a talented black woman.

    Maybe that's the problem? Some black folks run from the mirror. But, I left to believe thatif they took a deep look, they might learn a little something. That something could be of use to those behind them. I am reminded of the insightful lines delivered by the pathologically damaged, inner-city dwelling Mary ... "I did what my momma told me that I was supposed to do with my child, so that's what I did. And you're sittin' up there, and you're tryin' to judge me... But Ms Weiss, I don't like you lookin' at me like that."

    Damn, how many of us are products of our parents? I mean, excuse me while I change a line... "I did what my momma and daddy SHOWED me"

    So again Flowjoe, you might be dropping too much truth for this crowd. Lee Daniels does not soft-soap the drama and pain of the real world. For instance, although it has become politically correct to champion the gay lifestyle, there are some in that community who are just like those in Lee's Paper Boy. But, unfortunately, some don't want to talk about that, or at the very least they blame Mr. Lee for the ridiculous and silly black sin of "airing our dirty laundry".

  • FlowJoe | January 24, 2013 11:17 PM

    And Mr. Lennix needs all the work he can find!!!!!!

  • CareyCarey | January 24, 2013 6:42 PMReply

    Okay, let's line up. All the I hate Lee Daniels... I despised Django, The Help and Precious on one side of the room. Everyone else go to the neutral corner.

    Now that we understand one another, let's look at what both Daniels and Lennix said. First, given the context of Daniels' prior films (Shadowboxer and The Paper Boy) I don't see what's so confusing about his remark. Hell, unless there's some deep dark secrets that we don't know about the man (the butler) that we don't know, the story is out of his wheel-house. I know Bill Clinton didn't have a problem getting his freak on in the White House (and Marilyn Monroe has a few secrets) but not the butler. Unless, of course he was doing the mandingo... all night long? Hey, we don't know why he keep that job all those years. Come on now, there's no secret about about ugly white women's love of a strong black stud. But nawl, this won't be a story of homosexuals bond and gagged in a 3 hour motel (damn, did yawl see that mess). I doubt we'll see a black man an an old white woman screwing in a grave (shame of Cuba & Helen Mirren). But maybe... just maybe... the butler will piss in the punch. Noooooo, stop it. This is not a soft porn movie.

    Speaking of porn, that leads me to Mr. Lennix's remark. Make no mistake about it, if porn is something that's offense to some, yet pleasurable to others, the Butler could possibly be a huge display of porn. I mean, if an exaggerated form of human behavior that pleases some yet uses another human, the butler... could be described as porn. I mean, the butler wasn't no shaft or Nat Turner. I think he had to be more like Morgan Freeman's character in Driving Miss Daisy. Come on now, just think of all those racist white men who lived in the White House. Now think of some of the conversations that took place (remember Viola Davis lurking around the corner as the white women talked about her ass). Shiiiit, that brotha had to walk around like he was a ghost. I'm not saying he was a spittin' image of Samuel Jackson's "Stephen" in Django, but don't expect the image of the Rev. Al Sharpton. So get ready, "historical porn" might be the lick... ugly, offensive, nasty and dehumanizing to some... yet others will smile and be entertained and say, "it's based on a true story, so it's history... besides, it's only a movie"

  • CareyCarey | January 26, 2013 2:49 PM

    Hello Leon, I'm glad you showed up but I don't understand your point? I believe I am agreeing that QT and Lee Daniels don't pull back on the reins. So I don't see the significance of comparing "Across 110 Street" with any of their past films.

    And, I am agreeing that racism is still alive but yet, less tempered (less covert) during the tenure of "The Butler". So again, I am missing your point of contention?

  • LeonRaymond | January 26, 2013 2:10 PM

    @CAREYCAREY: Come on come please, just look at how openly these white folks degrade and talk about our current President out in the open and in groups in voting sessions and this is 2013 now just imagined back then the period depicted in the film -the racism was thick you needed a Ginsue knife to cut it. It's just a real Honest depiction of life in the White House during that period. Lee Daniels films are raw so what, they are blunt so what they show the pores and scabs up close oh well I got no problem with him or QT for that matter . Black folks love running from them selves love inventing a truth for a world that never existed. Go back and watch Anthony Quinn in "Across 110 Street" and you tell me if that is not 5 times more raw than any thing Lee has done.

  • Agent K | January 26, 2013 12:26 PM

    I have to give you props CareyCarey. That whole niggerfied historical porn just confuses me. I wonder where Antonie Fuqua is when you need him.

  • Donella | January 24, 2013 4:41 PMReply

    Daniels' handcuff and muzzle metaphor a subliminal reference to Lennix's porn remark?

  • Blob | January 24, 2013 1:55 PMReply

    I'm really digging the Lee Daniels' hate going on in this talkback. Keep on keeping on.

  • Darkan | January 24, 2013 1:18 PMReply

    This brotha needs handcuffs and a muzzle more times than often. SMH.

  • Aaron | January 24, 2013 12:58 PMReply

    So....he likes to show extremely explicit stuff in film for shock value?

  • DJ | January 24, 2013 1:03 PM

    He has to, in order to compensate for a lack of real skill and talent.

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