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Lee Daniels was putting together his civil rights historical film Selma even as he was in the throes of his Precious Oscar campaign last winter, but could the film actually be shoved aside at this point in favor of something else? Deadline is reporting that Daniels has signed a deal with Sony to rewrite and direct The Butler, a biopic of sorts about a man who worked as domestic help in the White House for over 34 years and 8 different Presidents. He's apparently already talking to Denzel Washington about playing the title role, and as Selma's funding remains in limbo, The Butler could be ready to go before the end of the year.

Apparently the delays on Selma are even more frustrating than we've realized-- Daniels was considering bailing on the project over the summer, and Hugh Jackman gained 30 pounds to play sheriff Jim Clark only to lose it all to star in Real Steel, shooting now in Detroit. The funding deals for that film are in process, with The Weinstein Company apparently ready to fork over $8 millions to the cause, so if things get settled in the next week or two filming could start this fall, with The Butler to fit in the schedule at some point next year.

It is bizarre to see a director with as much heat as Daniels get stymied like this, but it's probably also smart to assume that what he makes next probably won't be able to capture the same lightning as Precious, which was a modest hit despite being almost unbearably grim. Both Selma and The Butler promise to be happier stories-- it's just a matter of when we actually get to see them, and who will make the money a reality.

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