‘The Butler’s’ new preview is heavy on Oprah Winfrey and strange President casting

The first trailer for Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” arrived Tuesday and it’s a little all over the place while trying to make one thing clear: this movie has lots of familiar faces.

The biopic centers on Eugene Allen, a real butler who served in the White House for over 34 years until he retired during President Reagan’s second term.  Allen worked under seven presidents and witnessed some of the darkest days in Presidential history up close and personal.  The film was independently financed, but picked up for domestic distribution by the Weinstein Company and because of its pedigree has to be considered a conversation starter for the upcoming awards season. Why might you ask? Well, “The Butler” has an all-star cast of former Oscar winners and nominees including Forest Whitaker as Allen, Oprah Winfrey as his wife Gloria, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Robin Williams and Vanessa Redgrave. The ensemble also includes Alan Rickman, Live Schreiber, John Cusack, Alex Pettyfer, James Marsden, Jesse Williams and Mariah Carey. The script is by Emmy-winner Danny Strong (“Game Change”) and is Daniel’s follow up to the controversial “Paperboy.”  Yep, that’s first class Oscar bait people.

Daniels has gone on record stating this is his most “for hire” project to date and that immediately comes across in the new preview.  Let’s check it out embedded at the top the post, shall we?

Some quick observations:

– The movie looks more like a historical travelogue than one would have hoped. Perhaps it’s just in the editing of the trailer.

– John Cusack doesn’t look anything like President Richard Nixon, but at least he’s trying to get the voice down.

– Big Robin Williams fan, but he seems like an even bigger reach as former President Dwight Eisenhower than Cusack as Nixon.  That being said, James Marsden is surprisingly effective as John F. Kennedy, Jr.

– Not sure how deep or involved her character is in the story, but its nice to see Winfrey acting again.

– Not one clear shot of Mariah Carey. Poor Mimi.

– Can you remember the last time Cuba Gooding, Jr. got a title credit in a trailer for a major theatrical release? It’s been at least a decade. I’m guessing the last time was “Radio” (no “Shadowboxer” doesn’t count).

– Interesting choice from Weinstein Company’s marketing team. None of the Oscar winners or nominees have that credit before their names. That’s in stark contrast to  – of all things – Summit Entertainment’s new “Ender’s Game” preview which includes five call outs.  In contrast, “The Butler” features six winners and two nominees.  
– The film currently has 38 producers currently listed on IMDB.  I’m not kidding, 38 producers. That includes five stand alone producers, three co-producers, seven associate producers, 17 executive producers and six co-executive producers. Even in today’s world of creative movie financing that’s insane.  And, amazingly, Oprah Winfrey is not listed.

What did you think of the preview?  Does “The Butler” look like a potential contender?  Share your thoughts below.