Forest Whitaker’s ‘The Butler’ Provokes Title Fight

The butler

Warner Bros. asserts it has rights to title

Warner Bros. and The Weinstein Co. have gone to the mat over “The Butler,” which stars Forest Whitaker as the African-American servant who worked in the White House during eight presidencies.

The studios are headed to arbitration on the issue of the title, which TWC has set for an Aug. 16 release in the U.S. Warner Bros. is asserting it has rights to the title, due to a 1916 comedy short of the same name, and that TWC did not clear the title with Warner Bros.

The ensemble drama, directed by Lee Daniels, also stars Oprah Winfrey, David Oyelowo, Liam Neeson, Aml Ameen, Alan Rickman, James Marsden, Jane Fonda and Robin Williams.

Danny Strong wrote the script with Daniels. It is based on Wil Haygood’s Washington Post article about White House employee Eugene Allen. Daniels will produce with Hilary Shor, Cassian Elwes and Pam Williams of Laura Ziskin Prods.

Neither TWC nor Warner Bros. commented for this story.

The Deadline.com site first reported the dispute over the title.

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  1. B. R. Davis says:

    I was told by an entertainment attorney that you can’t copyright or own a title. So what’s all the litigation about “The Butler” really about?

    • Frank W says:

      They are still pissed that they were sued over “The Enforcer”, Clint Eastwood’s 3rd Dirty Harry movie. I think it was the writer of the original version that I believe starred Humphrey Bogart.

      Haven’t heard anything about this until today but the only way this could go through is if there is a property already with that title, like a novel, that WB has purchased or they have registered the title with the Writer’s Guild.

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