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You might think that a historical drama that focuses on the evolution of race relations in the United States might not be a platform for a media megastar to get a sexy makeover. But apparently you’d be wrong. The newly renamed Lee Daniels' The Butler has Oprah Winfrey playing Gloria Gaines, the loving wife of White House butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker). She also happens to own (get it, OWN?) tons of sex-soaked swagger. In the above clip, Gloria and Cecil are celebrating their empty nest and the latter’s birthday with all kinds of ‘70s style. Oprah is getting funky with some big gold hoop earrings, a big and beautiful Afro, and a black and white jumpsuit. And bonus good times: Whitaker has got one to match!
But this isn’t the first sultry image of Oprah from the film. Just after production wrapped on The Butler, she shared this downright confounding image of her and co-star Terrence Howard:
Having not yet seen the film, I’m at a loss as to how either the snapshot above or the clip up top fit into its larger story. Lee Daniel’s The Butler is based on the incredible life of Eugene Allen, who worked in service at the White House from 1952 to 1989, meaning he saw the administrations of the likes of John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan from a rare vantage point. The trailer for the film reveals Daniel and his screenwriter Danny Strong aimed to balance what Allen’s onscreen doppelganger Cecil sees within the White House with what he experiences in the gates beyond. And the latest poster suggests that this man was more than a servant to the president, but additionally an inspiration for change.
It’s difficult to know what to expect from Lee Daniels' The Butler as its director has a checkered filmography at best. His directorial debut was the Cuba Gooding Jr. vehicle Shadowboxer, which earned the kind of critical scorn that would urge some filmmakers to find a new vocation. But in 2009, Daniels returned with Precious, and his became the kind of underdog story Hollywood loves. The drama based on the novel Push by Sapphire was met with resounding critical praise, launched the career of Gabourey Sidibe, and won two Academy Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Mo’Nique).
All eyes were on Daniels when he unveiled his Florida-set follow-up The Paperboy. But while he managed a promising cast that included Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and Zac Efron, the thriller about two brothers who get caught up with a dangerous convict was met with critical jeers. Spanning decades and boasting a cast that includes Liev Schreiber, Robin Williams, Alan Rickman, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Lenny Kravitz, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, and Mariah Carey (many of whom can be spotted in these newly released stills), The Butler is Daniels' most ambitious effort yet. But will it be a big hit or another spectacular miss? We’ll find out when Lee Daniel’s The Butler hits theaters on August 16th.