*”Precious” director Lee Daniels has reportedly signed on to do rewrites and direct the Laura Ziskin-produced drama “The Butler” for Sony Pictures Entertainment, reports Deadline.
As previously reported, the movie is based on articles written by Wil Haygood on Eugene Allen, a butler who has served 34 years in the White House through eight presidents — all of whom fought with the nation’s growing problems with segregation.
Meanwhile, Daniels continues to develop and seek financing for his forthcoming drama “Selma,” about the famous march that led to Civil Rights reform in the country. According to Deadline, The Weinstein Company may commit $8 million to the project for its domestic distribution with another $10 million coming from other investors including Pathe.
Even so, Daniels will begin rewrites on “The Butler” immediately with hopes of starting production by year’s end with Denzel Washington having already been approached to play the lead…but it will depend on whether “Selma” gets its financing straight deals done before “The Butler” is ready to shoot.
“Selma” has been the source of much frustration this summer for Daniels, who is said to be baffled that the Oscar momentum surrounding “Precious” hasn’t helped “Selma” secure financing.
Deadline’s Mike Fleming writes:
Daniels, an emotional guy by nature, was ready to swear off the film earlier this summer. His frustration is understandable. Armed with the Paul Webb script, Daniels lined up a terrific cast–Hugh Jackman, Liam Neeson, David Oyelowo, Ray Winstone, Robert De Niro, Cedric the Entertainer are among those who’ve circled-and planned to start production earlier this year. Actors agreed to work cheap and left schedules open. Jackman even gained 30 pounds to play Jim Clark, a sheriffs who arrested Martin Luther King. But the financing never solidified, and Jackman had to go lose the weight to star in Real Steel. Most of that cast is hanging in, and the producers—”Slumdog Millionaire’s” Christian Colson and Plan B’s Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner–are prepared enough that production could still happen in the fall. But if those funding deals don’t close in the next week or two, it might not be possible.