Oprah Winfrey only decides to act when the roles she's offered speak to her. That means she probably gets endless pitches for parts that directors would love to see her play -- at least that's the case for Lee Daniels, who directed Winfrey in this year's "Lee Daniels' The Butler."
Daniels wanted to work with the media mogul before "The Butler" came around. Winfrey revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that the director offered her roles in "The Paperboy" and "Prisoners," both of which were too gloomy for her palate. The "Paperboy" role went to Macy Gray instead, and Daniels told IndieWire in November that he lost the "Prisoners" job "for even suggesting [Winfrey] to the producers." (Denis Villeneuve took over directing duties.)
"Acting is about going into the space," Winfrey told THR, "and there are just some places that I'm not willing to go."
Before starring in "Lee Daniels' The Butler," Winfrey had not appeared onscreen since 1998's "Beloved" (Winfrey also provided voice work for a handful of animated films during the ensuing 15 years).
"For me, stepping back into the acting world was a big decision because I haven't done a film, I haven't picked up a script, I haven't read a line in 15 years," Winfrey told Entertainment Weekly in August. "It's like if you play an instrument -- you play the guitar or you play the flute, and you lay the flute down, you put the flute in the closet and you don't pick up the flute for 15 years. And then you go and play the flute when you haven't played the flute for 15 years and you're going to play it on a national -- an international -- stage. Crazy!"
That 15-year gap followed 1998's "Beloved," an adaptation of the acclaimed Toni Morrison novel. The movie, produced by Winfrey's Harpo Productions, was a box-office disaster despite earning positive reviews. The talk-show queen called that moment one of the worst in her career.
"It was the only time in my life that I was ever depressed, and I recognized that I [was] depressed because I've done enough shows [on the topic]," she told CNN. "'Oh, this is what people must feel like who are depressed.'"
Winfrey's well-received turn in "Lee Daniels' The Butler" should undo the bad feelings associated with "Beloved." The actress was snubbed for a Golden Globe nomination but has racked up plenty of other awards attention, including nods from the Screen Actors Guild and Satellite Awards. She remains an Oscar favorite.