Cannes 2012: Icon UK Group Backs Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’

Daniels' historical epic will center on an African American White House butler and will star Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey

The Icon UK Group will back Lee Daniels' "The Butler," the company said Tuesday.

The story of Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served eight American presidents over the course of four decades, will star Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker. 

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It marks Daniels’ fourth film as director. He earned an Oscar nomination for his gritty 2009 drama "Precious."

Daniels' latest film, "The Paperboy," is currently competing for the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. It stars Zac Efron and Nicole Kidman. 

Also read: Cannes 2012: Where's the Excitement?

Daniels said of "The Butler": "This project awes me. The scope and magnitude of the father and son story moves me to tears. Bringing this essential black history to the screen is a terrifying and exhilarating challenge."

Daniels spent more than a year trying to round up financing for "Selma," about one of the 1960s' iconic Civil Rights marches, only to have financing fall apart. "The Butler" will allow the director to examine some parts of that turbulent period through Allen's service to presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. 

The supporting cast is impressive, but they will face the task of playing instantly recognizable historical figures.

"The Butler" features Matthew McConaughey  as John F. Kennedy, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, and Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan. Rounding out the ensemble are Cuba Gooding Jr., David Oyelowo, Lenny Kravitz and Terrence Howard.

"The Butler" is written by Danny Strong and Lee Daniels and is based on Wil Haygood's Washington Post article “A Butler Well Served by This Election” which was published on November 7, 2008.

"The Butler," a Laura Ziskin Production, will be produced by Ziskin, Daniels and Pam Williams, along with Cassian Elwes and Hilary Shor Executive Producing. Aviv Giladi and Len Blavatnik are executive producing for Icon. CAA packaged the film and is handling North American sales. The film is being represented by IM Global for International Sales.