Add President Barack Obama to the list of people praising both "Lee Daniels' The Butler" and Oprah Winfrey's performance in the civil rights drama. In an interview with radio hosts Tom Joyner and Sybil Wilkes at the White House on Tuesday, Obama revealed that he had see Daniels' feature and that it made him "tear up."
"All of the acting was terrific, and I thought Forest Whitaker was wonderful," Obama said. "And Oprah, my girl, she can act. She's just a wonderful actress."
Directed by Daniels and written by Danny Strong ("Game Change"), "The Butler" focuses on a White House service employee (Whitaker) who worked with eight administrations, from Harry Truman through Ronald Reagan. The film is based on the life of Eugene Allen, a White House butler who was profiled by the Washington Post in the days after Obama's election win in 2008.
"I teared up just thinking about not just the butlers who have worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people who were talented and skilled, but because of Jim Crow, because of discrimination, there was only so far they could go," Obama said of the film. "And yet, with dignity and tenacity, they got up and worked every single day, and put up with a whole lot of mess because they hoped for something better for their kids."
Obama, as it turns out, was not the first president to see "The Butler" and find himself taken with Winfrey. Daniels said he had previously screened the film for George H.W. Bush and his wife, Barbara Bush, both of whom were surprised by the media titan's performance, her first onscreen work in 15 years.
"President Bush would [shout], 'Is that Oprah, honey? Is that Oprah?' and Barbara would [shout], 'Is that Oprah, Lee? Is that Oprah?'" Daniels said during an event held by the Film Society of Lincoln Center in August. "She would [shout], 'That's Oprah, honey!'"
Obama's viewing of "The Butler" was a long time coming. In fact, Daniels told Film.com that he wanted Obama for the feature's final scene, but was "too nervous to even ask," because he knew the answer would be no.
"He was running for president at the time," Daniels said. "Can you imagine if he would've taken it? If he stopped his election and did a movie? [Laughs] Isn't that funny?"
For more on Obama's "Butler" thoughts, including which actor provided his favorite moment, head to BlackAmericaWeb.com.
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