Lee Daniel’s new movie stars Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gains, an African-American butler who is a witness of multiple noteworthy events of the 20th century. (The film is based on the real life story of Eugene Allen, who served as a White House butler during eight American presidencies from 1952 to 1986.)However you might think that the movie is aptly, and uniquely titled: “The Butler,” unfortunately there is a problem. Warner Brothers is claiming the title.
In a desperate plea Mister Daniels sent an emotional letter to the Warner Brothers studios. Lee Daniel contacted the studio’s new CEO Kevin Tsujihara asking him to think it over and hopefully drop his claim. Lee said: ” If Warner Bros. makes The Weinstein Company retitle the movie, it will ‘most certainly hurt the film.’
He pleaded with Kevin in his letter: ‘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.’
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ruled on Tuesday and rendered that the movie title belongs to Warner Bros, and that they have the right to the title due to a 1916 movie of the same name, which the studio owns.
He also tried to explain in a desperate plea to Tsujihara his goal for the movie: “to 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.” He also talked about the finer points of “The Butler”: It “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. [Working on this film] is the proudest moment of my professional career. I am heartbroken as I write this letter.”
Lee Daniels is mostly famous for being nominated for an Academy Award for his movie, “Precious.” Contrary to the latter, his new movie is packed full of household names like: Minka Kelly as Jackie Kennedy, Alan Rickman and Jane Fonda as Ronald and Nancy Reagan, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Robin Williams as Dwight D. Eisenhower, with Oprah Winfrey and Lenny Kravitz also in featured roles.
However The Weinstein Company isn’t going to accept the ruling without a fight. They are not up for the same emotional plea as Lee has done. In comparison the Weinstein Company issued a statement from lawyer Bois in response to the MPAA ruling which read: ‘The suggestion that there is a danger of confusion between The Weinstein Co.’s 2013 feature movie and a 1916 short that has not been shown in theatres, television, DVDs, or in any other way for almost a century makes no sense. The award has no purpose except to restrict competition and is contrary to public policy.’
Word on the Internet highway is that either no one is truly that concerned about the title, because it’s about the movie itself not the title, or on the other hand, people don’t understand all the Warner Brothers fuss because nobody who is alive today remembers the 1916 short film.
What do you think? Is their desperate plea viable for the “The Butler” or does Warner Brothers have a point?
By Georgina Pijttersen