August 29, 2012
While residents of South Louisiana wrestle with one key question ahead of an increasingly likely direct hit by Tropical Storm Isaac -- that is: Should I stay or should I go? -- one local feature film production has already answered it. "The Butler" has bolted.
Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey are currently in New Orleans shooting in Lee Daniels' drama 'The Butler,' based on the story of longtime White House butler Eugene Allen. The film has suspended production ahead of Tropical Storm Isaac. Director Lee Daniels' historical drama -- featuring an all-star cast headed by Forest Whitaker -- has been shooting in the area since late July and was scheduled to wrap Sept. 7. But with Tropical Storm Isaac -- which is predicted to become a hurricane in the not-too-distant future -- on a path that could see it impact the city Wednesday afternoon (Aug. 29), the film has suspended production for the week and decamped to ride out the storm in drier climes. "The Butler" -- which spent the weekend shooting in Houma -- was the only major feature film in production in New Orleans this week.
Based on a 2008 article by Wil Haygood for the Washington Post -- written in the wake of President Obama's historic election -- "The Butler" tells the true story of Eugene Allen, an African-American White House butler who served eight presidents over the course of his career, providing him with a unique front-row seat to history. "His is a story from the back pages of history," Haygood wrote. "A figure in the tiniest of print. The man in the kitchen." Forest Whitaker is playing the character based on Allen, and Oprah Winfrey will play his wife. In addition, a long list of big names have been enlisted to portray various historical figures in small but high-profile roles. Among them: Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, and James Marsden as John F. Kennedy. As for their wives, Minka Kelley has signed on to play Jackie Kennedy, Jane Fonda will play Nancy Reagan, and "Treme" actress Melissa Leo will play Mamie Eisenhower to Williams' Ike.
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