Written By: Danny Strong and Lee Daniels
Directed By: Lee Daniels
Cast: Forest Whitaker, Alex Pettyfer, John Cusack, Robin Williams, Alan Rickman, James Marsden, Minka Kelly, Lenny Kravitz, Jesse Williams, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey, Liev Schreiber, Nelsan Ellis, Jane Fonda, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard, Vanessa Redgrave, Yaya DaCosta, David Oyelowo, Colman Domingo, Alex Manette
Synopsis: A look at the life of Eugene Allen, who served eight presidents as the White House’s head butler from 1952 to 1986, and had a unique front-row seat as political and racial history was made.
Why It Could Succeed: There is every kind of award winner and nominee in the cast to the tune of 8 Oscar nominees and 6 winners, 4 Tony nominees and 2 winners, 4 Emmy Award winners and 3 Grammy winners including the #8 best selling musician of all time. With star power like that, you’re sure to at least get people to see your film which during the awards season is a necessary part of winning. Actors also make up the largest part of the Academy voting body and having a large ensemble with famous people playing famous/historical figures can be catnip to voters. The awards magnetism also extends into the creative team as ubiquitous composer Alexandre Desplat is doing the music, Emmy winning writer Danny Strong helped Daniels pen the screenplay, and Oscar nominated director Daniels is producing and directing. Say what you will about Lee Daniels, but he’s the only director in Oscar history to lead a film written by, starring, and about African Americans to a Best Picture nomination, so if anyone can override the weird aversion to minority stories, it’s him. Maybe most importantly, this is a Weinstein Company release with an October slot that worked out great for Argo last year.
Why It Could Fail: Was Precious a one hit wonder? Daniels’ other films have inspired more scorn than praise and though he has that Best Director nomination, his directorial style can be incredibly off putting. There are a TON of volatile personalities in this group and there are already stories detracting from the movie from Daniels being upset about the ratings and Terrence Howard talking about Oprah’s tig ol bitties. People are so sensitive during awards season and any small comment can be blown up to a big deal. No one makes it through the awards season unscathed but usually those with the least amount of controversy win. Also, with such a humongous ensemble there’s bound to be some cancellation of votes and while movies revolving around Presidents and Washington have been hit or miss lately, with every Lincoln and Frost/Nixon you get W. and Bobby. And finally, do you remember way back in February when I mentioned that stat about movies about African Americans that are written by, directed by and starring black people? That’s still a big issue the film will have to overcome.
Best Director (Lee Daniels)
Best Actor (Forest Whitaker)
Best Supporting Actress (Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda)
Best Supporting Actor (Terrence Howard, James Marsden, Allan Rickman)