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The Butler

Oprah, Lenny Kravitz, Forest Whitaker at ‘The Butler’ Press Conference

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The Butler

Oprah Winfrey got a huge round of applause from enthusiastic journalists yesterday at the Waldorf Astoria in midtown for the press conference for Lee Daniels’ “The Butler.”

The all-star line-up, who sat on a  stage at the front of the packed room in one of the hotel’s ballrooms, got an enthusiastic reception from reporters. The star wattage from the film present featured the lead, Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, rocker Lenny Kravitz, Terrence Howard, David Oyelowo, a pregnant ready to pop Yaya Alafia, Minka Kelly, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, Jesse Williams and screenwriter Danny Strong.

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Mariah Carey, who has a small but prominent role at the beginning of the film, made a fashionably late entrance in a short, tight dress and sky-high Christian Louboutins. She apologized for being late and blamed it on the doctor who she said adjusted the metal studded sling she wore on her injured arm.

The Butler

Terrence Howard of “The Butler”

The star attraction at the press conference, which lasted over an hour, was Oprah. The room came to a hush whenever she spoke.

The event was primarily a love-fest but there was one tense moment when a journalist made a negative remark about the performances of the actors who played the presidents in the film, cameos that are short but crucial.

Three of these actors – Marsden, Schreiber and Kelly – were sitting on the stage, which made this particularly embarrassing. When the journalist began her criticism, Daniels, Winfrey and Whitaker jokingly clutched each other’s hands.

The journalist criticized the portrayal of the presidents and the Black Panthers. She said she had interviewed Black Panthers. Daniels, who trumped her, said he had known Black Panthers, including his uncle.

“And in regards to the presidents, I think they have done a tour de force job. And I think that’s what makes me a filmmaker and you an interviewer. Next!”

There were many highlights during the press conference for Lee Daniels’ brilliant historical epic “The Butler,” which is also a father-son love story  between the titular butler (Forest Whitaker) who serves in the White House during the administrations of eight presidents, and his son (David Oyelowo), a Civil Rights activist who struggles and fights for change during those turbulent historical times.

During one spellbinding moment at the press conference, Winfrey told the roomful of journalists, “I am the daughter of a maid. And my grandmother was a maid. And her mother was a maid. And her mother was a maid. And her mother was a slave. So the domestic worker in the speech that Dr. King gives to my son in the movie … I feel validated by the way that the butler and his entire generation fought in their own way.”

Other highlights included Lee Daniels rubbing Alafia’s belly, and Terrence Howard demonstrating to reporters how he spins metal hangers as he does in an improvised scene in the film. (He’s pretty good.)

“The Butler” opens in theaters August 16, 2013. It’s rated PG-13 for some violence and disturbing images, language, sexual material, thematic elements and smoking.

Photos: Brad Balfour

Paula Schwartz

Paula Schwartz is a veteran journalist based in New York who is passionate about the movies. Her idea of heaven is watching three movies in a row. She’s written for various outlets, including the New York Times, Showbiz411.com, More.com and MovieMaker Magazine. For five seasons, she contributed to the New York Times seasonal movie blog, Carpetbaggers, where she covered major awards events and interviewed stars like Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Gary Oldman and Helen Mirren.

Paula Schwartz has written posts on Reel Life With Jane.


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