NEW YORK – The day before Oprah Winfrey began shooting “Lee Daniels’ The Butler,” she was at the White House, talking to the president.
Her access to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (this particular trip was for a 2012 campaign interview) is considerably greater than her character’s in the film. She plays Gloria Gaines, the wife of a long-serving White House butler (Forest Whitaker), whose service spans seven presidents and decades of sea changes in civil rights.
“They said, ‘Do you want to talk to some butlers?”‘ Winfrey recalled in a recent interview. “I said, ‘No. You got some butlers’ wives? I’ll talk to them.”‘
It was 15 years ago the last time Winfrey was on the big screen, in the 1998 adaption of Toni Morrison’s novel, “Beloved,” produced by Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. In the time since, she’s been slightly busy. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” grew into an enormous cultural force. Her work on the side in film (most memorably in Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple,” for which she received an Oscar nomination) took a back seat to being a television icon and an entrepreneur.
“I would only give my time to something that really mattered to me,” she says. “I’m not interested in being in the movies for movies’ sake.”
But Daniels was persistent. He had sought Winfrey for the role Macy Gray ended up playing in 2009′s “Precious” (Winfrey became a producer) and several other projects.
“It was hard,” Daniels says of the pursuit. “I was looking for something to do with her, and I kept telling her: ‘You have got to come back to work,’ because she was magnificent in ‘The Color Purple.’ I wanted it selfishly for myself. I wanted to see her on the screen.”
“I gave her a script she couldn’t refuse,” says Daniels of Danny Strong’s screenplay.
“I hooked her in. Once I got her in, it was over.”
R&B singer sued after studio fight
LOS ANGELES – A man who claims he was punched and kicked by a member of Chris Brown’s entourage during a fight at a recording studio sued the R&B singer on Tuesday for assault and battery.
Sha’keir Duarte sued Brown for unspecified damages in Los Angeles Superior Court, claiming he suffered a concussion as well as humiliation and mental anguish as a result of the attack.
Brown’s attorney Mark Geragos called the case frivolous and said it amounted to an attempted shakedown.
“This is what gives lawyers and lawsuits a bad name is garbage like this,” Geragos said.
Duarte claims he was beaten by a member of Brown’s entourage during a fight over a parking spot.