Company plans 2013 release for Lee Daniels-helmed White House tale

The Weinstein Company has acquired U.S. rights to distribute Lee Daniels’ drama “The Butler” from Butler Films and plans to release the film next year. Pic is currently in production in New Orleans.

Forest Whitaker stars as the title character alongside Oprah Winfrey, Mariah Carey, John Cusack, Jane Fonda, Cuba Gooding Jr., Terrence Howard, Minka Kelly, Lenny Kravitz, Melissa Leo, James Marsden, David Oyelowo, Alex Pettyfer, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Rickman, Liev Schreiber and Robin Williams.

A Laura Ziskin production, “The Butler” is produced by Pamela Oas Williams, Buddy Patrick, Cassian Elwes, Daniels and the late Ziskin. Hilary Shor and Adam Merims exec produced, while David Jacobson served as co-producer.

Emmy winner Danny Strong (“Game Change”) and Daniels co-wrote the script, which was inspired by Wil Haygood’s Washington Post article about Cecil Gaines (Whitaker), an African-American man who served as a butler to eight Presidents in the White House over a span of more than 30 years. From this unique vantage point, pic traces the dramatic changes that swept American society, from the civil rights movement to Vietnam and beyond, and how those changes affected Gaines’ life and family.

“What moves me most about this man is his quiet nature, grace and unmatched perspective that comes from being in one place — a very powerful one — during what was arguably the period in American history that saw the most change,” said Daniels, who most recently directed “The Paperboy.”

“Lee tells stories in a way no one else does. What struck me most about this story is the perspective it comes from, which in this case is the butler — a man who was a fly on the wall for decades in the world’s most powerful home,” said TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein. “It takes an unbelievable cast like the one that’s in place to do this story justice, and we are proud to be given the chance to share this story with the world.”

“This has been a passion project for all involved and we are thrilled to be able to see Laura Ziskin’s vision for this film realized and know it will be a lasting tribute to her incredible career,” added producer Williams.

“The Butler” is financed by Windy Hill Pictures, Follow Through Prods., Salamander Media, Salloway Rubenstein Prods./Crystal City Entertainment, Earl W. Stafford, Starstream Films, Yogi Entertainment and Inner Media Capital. Pic also marks a high-profile return to production for Icon UK Group, which also came in as a major investor on the project.

CAA packaged the film and is handling North American sales along with Elwes, while IM Global is handling international sales.

TWC and Butler Films made the deal based on the screenplay. Deal was negotiated by TWC’s David Glasser and Andrew Kramer, as well as Schuyler Moore of Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, Elwes on behalf of Evolution Independent, and CAA on behalf of Butler Films.

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