*In the ongoing drama between Warner Bros, who released a film in 1916 titled “The Butler,” and The Weinstein Company [TWC], who is distributing the Lee Daniels film “The Butler” in the United States, Daniels is now speaking out, saying retitling the movie at this point “will most certainly hurt the film.”
As previously reported, the MPAA’s Title Registry Bureau ruled that TWC could not use the title because of the pre-existing 1916 short film that now resides in the Warner Bros. library. In response, TWC’s attorney David Boies fired off letters to the MPAA and Warners earlier Wednesday threatening litigation.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Daniels has sent a letter to Warner Bros. Entertainment’s new CEO Kevin Tsujihara, pleading his case by describing the film – which stars Forest Whitaker and is based on the true story of Eugene Allen, who spent 34 years working at the White House until he retired as head butler – as a film he made “so I could show my kids, my family and my country some of the injustices and victories African-Americans and their families have experienced in the fight for Civil Rights.”
The movie, he continued, “tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement from the sit-ins and the Freedom Riders, to Selma, Martin Luther King’s assassination and the election of the first Black president.”
Daniels wrote that working on the film “is the proudest moment of my professional career, I am heartbroken as I write this letter.” He explained that the modestly budgeted movie is not intended to be a blockbuster and “if we were to change the title a mere six weeks before we open, it would most certainly hurt the film by limiting the number of people who would ultimately see this important story.”
Offering to screen the movie for Tsujihara, Daniels said, “I truly believe that once you watch it, you would not want to cause this film any harm.”
Daniels concluded the letter by adding he has the support of its stars Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and David Oyelowo as well as the film’s screenwriter Danny Strong. Copies also were sent to Warners executives Sue Kroll, Greg Silverman and Dan Fellman.