Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Daniels appeals over Butler dispute

Forest Whitaker stars in Lee Daniels' film about the White House butler
Forest Whitaker stars in Lee Daniels' film about the White House butler

Lee Daniels has written to Warner Bros to appeal for the right to use the title The Butler for his new film.

The Precious director's historical drama - starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo - is based on the true story of one man's tenure as butler at The White House during the terms of eight presidents.

Warner Bros wants to block the film from being called The Butler, claiming it has rights to the title because of a 1917 silent comedy short called The Butler, which was produced and released by other companies but is now owned by the Warner Bros library.

Warner Bros has just been awarded the rights by the Motion Picture Association of America's Title Registration Bureau, but The Weinstein Company has already filed an appeal. And now Deadline has reported that director Daniels has personally waded in, penning a letter to Warner Bros' CEO Kevin Tsujihara.

He wrote: "I am so proud of this movie. Every member of our cast worked for almost nothing so that this story could be told with only our very small budget.

"If we were to change the title a mere six weeks before we open, it would most certainly hurt the film by limiting the number of people who would ultimately see this important story. This movie is not a blockbuster, nor did we intend it to be. We just wanted to tell the dark and beautiful story of our nation's racial history, where we came from, and how far we have come."

He went on: "Our brilliant writer Danny Strong, amazing cast, and I would like to offer to screen our movie for you today. I beg you to see it before you decide to force us to change the title.

"I truly believe that once you watch it, you would not want to cause this film any harm. I feel that if this film can succeed and reach people's hearts, it will only help pave the way for other films that strive to educate and inspire, just as The Help and your very own 42 has done for us."

The film, due to be released in the US next month, also stars John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr, Terrence Howard, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and Mariah Carey.

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