Oscar-nominated "Precious" filmmaker Lee Daniels will rewrite and direct "The Butler" for Sony Pictures, the studio has confirmed to TheWrap.
Based on a series of articles written by Wil Haygood, the drama follows Eugene Allen, a servant in the White House who worked for eight presidents over the course of more than 34 years, including during the age of racial segregation.
After Butler's first article, the long-retired Allen was invited to be a guest at the inauguration of Barack Obama, the country's first African American president.
Laura Ziskin will produce "The Butler," and Daniels has reportedly approached Denzel Washington about the lead role.
Danny Strong (HBO's "Recount") wrote the original draft, which Daniels will begin rewriting immediately with the hope of starting production before the end of the year if Daniels' Civil Rights drama "Selma" fails to finalize its funding before then.
Deadline reports that the Weinstein Company plans to commit $8 million in order to distribute "Selma" domestically, while Pathe would match that amount and distribute overseas. Additionally, equity investor Skyline Pictures would provide the remaining funds for the movie, which is budgeted at $18 million once location rebates are factored in.
The producers, who include Christian Colson ("Slumdog Millionaire") and Plan B's Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner, are sticking with the project for now, but it may fall apart if it doesn't close funding deals soon, as the cast — which includes Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, Robert De Niro, David Oyelowo, Ray Winstone and Cedric the Entertainer (many of whom agreed to work cheap and leave their schedules open) — has other commitments to honor.
I thought Daniels' directorial debut, the incestuous assassin drama "Shadowboxer," was completely ludicrous, but I have to give him props for "Precious," which was one of last year's best films. It's troubling that Daniels is struggling to firm up financing for an important, star-studded film like "Selma" when movies like "Marmaduke" and "Killers" have no trouble getting financed.