Thesp in talks for title role; Oyelowo also in negotiations

Forest Whitaker and David Oyelowo are in negotiations to star in Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” with Whitaker playing the title role and Oyelowo as his son.

Based on the Washington Post report by Wil Haygood, story follows Eugene Allen, the butler who served at the White House under eight presidents from 1952 to 1986. As previously reported, Oprah Winfrey is in early talks to play Allen’s wife.

Daniels is helming his longtime passion project from a script he penned with Danny Strong. Denzel Washington was originally attached to star with Sony distributing, but the gears never meshed and Washington and Sony fell off.

Pamela Williams will produce through Laura Ziskin Productions along with Hilary Shor.

Financing still has to be arranged, so no deals are set and no distributor is in place — but sources say the money should be figured out shortly with a plan to begin shooting this summer.

The casting plan is similar to Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” pic, with a large group of supporting players portraying famous figures while Whitaker, Oyelow and Winfrey get the most screentime.

Whitaker has stayed very busy of late, with several films already wrapped and awaiting release including Lionsgate’s “Last Stand” and “Pawn.” Oyelowo has also kept hard at work since his breakout role in Fox’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” grabbing roles in Paramount’s “One Shot” and “Lincoln.” He was also recently featured in Fox’s “Red Tails” and can be seen next in Daniels’ “The Paperboy.”

Whitaker is repped by WME and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Oyelowo is repped by ICM, Inphenate and Hamilton Hoddell.

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