Movie stars are the coin of the realm in Hollywood, but casting recognizable actors in some roles can work against a film.
So far, the first official look at The Butler, the new film from director Lee Daniels, finds seeing familar faces in oh, so familiar roles to be a sizeable distraction.
The film, inspired by true events, follows a black butler who gets to see changes in the country from a unique vantage point–The White House. Oscar-winner Forest Whitaker is the Butler, but it’s the rest of the cast that will surely raise eyebrows.
John Cusack as President Richard Nixon? Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan? Robin Williams as President Eisenhower? The first two actors are not only firmly established in our minds for a variety of iconic roles but represent the far-left of Hollywood’s progressive troupe. Other stars, including James Marsden as President Kennedy and Liev Schreiber as President Johnson fare better–and require less makeup.
The trailer promises a tear duct pushing story, but seeing Cusack in full Nixon mode takes us right out of the drama. The finished film, due later this year in time for awards consideration, may find the actors fleshing out their roles in satisfying fashion.
So far, the film has earned raves from very select groups. Could that be a tribute to the film’s potency or a sign we’ll be seeing more cinematic bombs against conservatives come Oscar season? Danny Strong, who wrote both Game Change and Recount for HBO, is the co-screenwriter for The Butler, so anything political is possible.