Jane Fonda has confirmed that Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker will play husband and wife in her new film about real-life White House butler Eugene Allen. Announcing the casting news on her blog this week, Fonda revealed she’ll be playing former First Lady Nancy Reagan in the film, which will be directed by Precious director Lee Daniels.
Rumors about the casting have been running rampant for weeks, but Fonda confirms Whitaker will portray the lead in The Butler and Winfrey will play his character’s wife.
Jane Fonda writes,
“It is a beautiful and true story about a black man who grew up in the Jim Crow South and went to work as a much beloved butler in the White House through many administrations, both Republican and Democratic.
Lee Daniels, the Academy Award nominated director of Precious, and producer of Monsters Ball will direct. The butler will be played by Forrest Whittaker (sic) and his wife will be played by Oprah Winfrey. It is their story. But a number of well-known actors will be playing cameos as the various presidents and first ladies for whom he worked. I will play Nancy Reagan.”
Jane Fonda also addresses criticism that her casting has stirred up from those who believe the controversial, feminist Oscar winner is the wrong choice to play the wife of conservative Ronald Reagan.
Fonda adds, “While many of you have expressed positive sentiments, I know that this casting has upset some people – that I, a known progressive, would play this particular first lady, a known conservative. But I am an actor and I have no intention of allowing the political differences between us to color my portrayal of her. I will not be disrespectful. This will not be a film that, for political reasons, makes fun of or distorts any of the characters that appear. It is, as I say, a true story and a touching one, in my opinion.”