President Obama: ‘I Did Tear Up’ Watching Lee Daniels’ ‘The Butler’

Movies & TV

| August 28, 2013 - 1:01 pm

Syndicated radio host Tom Joyner had President Barack Obama on his show yesterday (8/27) where the latter revealed that he was moved to tears while viewing Lee Daniels’ historically themed film, The Butler.

“I teared up thinking about not just the butlers who worked here in the White House, but an entire generation of people who were talented and skilled. But because of Jim Crow and because of discrimination, there was only so far they could go,” the president told the Tom Joyner Morning Show. “And yet with dignity and tenacity, they got up and worked every single day and put up with a whole lot of mess because they hoped for something better for their kids.”

The Butler, whose title caused quite a bit of controversy between The Weinstein Company and rival studio Warner Bros., finds Oscar award winner Forest Whitaker portraying a servant named Cecil Gaines, based on the real-life White House butler Eugene Allen. Allen, who served eight presidents from 1952 up until his retirement in 1986, was awarded late in life for his servitude and proclivity to the White House. The film explores the tumultuous Civil Rights movement from the eyes of the Gaines family: Gloria (Oprah Winfrey), his wife who longs for her husbands affections and Louis (David Oyelowo), his son who disagrees with his father’s ways and wants to serve on the front lines of the Civil Rights fight.

“I thought Forest Whitaker was wonder,” Obama said to Joyner. “And Oprah, my girl, she can act. She’s just a wonderful actress, so I’m glad they did it.” The Commander-in-Chief also talked about meeting real-life African American members of his White House interior staff. “When Michelle and the girls and I first arrived, they could not have been kinder to us and warmer to us,” Obama admitted. “And part of it, I suppose, is they look at Malia and Sasha and they say, ‘This looks like my grandbaby,’ or ‘This looks like my daughter’. I think for them to have a sense that we’ve come that far was a powerful moment for them, and certainly a powerful moment for us. We love them to death. They look after us just wonderfully.”

Daniels’ film is currently sitting atop the heap at the U.S. box office, which comes during a moment in our history where civil rights themes (see: Trayvon Martin, the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech) are front page news. It has, to date, brought in $53 million dollars in total revenue so far.

The Butler also stars Robin Williams, James Marsden, Yaya Alafia, Jane Fonda, Alan Rickman, Minka Kelly and Melissa Leo as the various U.S. presidents, First Ladies and individuals Gaines meets along his life experiences.

Props: The Hollywood Reporter