The character of Cecil Gaines was based on Eugene Allen, who served as White House butler for over 30 years and 8 presidents: Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. Much of the detail is fictionalized for this movie.
Lee Daniels admitted that he tried to convince as many stars as he could to appear in the film, even for bit parts, to improve marketability.
On Gloria's vanity mirror in the bedroom are two pictures of children. One of them is a photo of Oprah Winfrey as a child.
In the original script, Cecil Gaines meets President Barack Obama. Lee Daniels considered asking the president to play himself. Since the film was shot during the height of the 2012 presidential election, Daniels decided to cast actor Orlando Eric Street in the role instead. The scene was shot but ultimately discarded, and archival footage of the real President Obama was used.
Reunites Robin Williams and Forest Whitaker after 26 years. Their first appearance together was in Good Morning, Vietnam (1987).
Warner Brothers Pictures, owners of a 1916 silent short film called The Butler (1916), filed a claim with the MPAA to rename this film. The MPAA allowed the Weinstein Company to add Lee Daniels' name in front of the title, under the condition that his name was "75% the size of The Butler". On July 23, 2013, the distributor unveiled a revised film poster, with the title "Lee Daniels' The Butler".
First inspired by a feature article published November 7, 2008, in the Washington Post: "A Butler Well Served by This Election."
Laura Ziskin's final film. She died of breast cancer on June 12, 2011 before it was completed.
The film cast includes five Oscar winners: Forest Whitaker, Robin Williams, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave and Cuba Gooding Jr.; and two Oscar nominees: Oprah Winfrey and Terrence Howard.
Robin Williams plays President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the Night at the Museum (2006) fantasy movies he played a magically-brought-to-life wax statue of President Theodore Roosevelt, and in Man of the Year (2006) he played a fictionalized President.
This is Oprah Winfrey's first on-screen film role since Beloved (1998) in which she does not play herself.
Matthew McConaughey was cast as John F. Kennedy, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts. James Franco was considered to replace him.
David Oyelowo plays a member of the Freedom Riders, young people who rode buses from the north to the south to participate in non-violent protests, demonstrations, and other activities in support of black rights. He would later play Martin Luther King Jr. in the movie "Selma".
The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2010 Blacklist: a list of the "most liked" unmade scripts of the year.
The original cast also included Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman, and Zac Efron in unspecified roles.
Though they don't appear in a scene together, this is the first film Jane Fonda and Vanessa Redgrave have made together since Julia (1977). Fonda is most definitely cast against type. During the Vietnam war she created enormous controversy by visiting North Vietnam.
The film is highly fictional and added stories for entertainment purposes. From Time magazine issue August of 2013.
Columbia Pictures put the film in turnaround in 2008. The Weinstein Company acquired the distribution rights in 2012.
Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, David Oyelowo, and Elijah Kelly all previously worked together in Red Tails (2012).
David Oyewelo and Forest Whitaker play father and son. However, they are only 15 years apart in real life.
Terrance Howard and Forest Whitaker later starred in Empire (2015) which Lee Daniels and Danny Strong also created. Terrance Howard played Lucious Lyon who is a main character and Forest Whitaker played Uncle Eddy who was a recurring character.