Lee Daniels doesn't "feel so good" about the new title for his upcoming movie about a longtime White House butler, he tells The Hollywood Reporter. But the film's stars seem to feel fine about the title and the attention generated by The Weinstein Company's highly publicized dispute with Warner Bros. over the name of the film, which resulted in it being called Lee Daniels' The Butler.
In July, The MPAA's Title Registration Bureau ruled that The Weinstein Company could not use the title The Butler, which is also the name of a 1916 Warner Bros. short film. The Weinstein Company appealed the decision and tried to get Warner Bros. to back down, but TRB's appeals board agreed with the earlier decision, so the title was changed to Lee Daniels' The Butler.
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During the dispute with Warner Bros., Daniels was concerned about the title and frustrated.
"Lee was like 'What are we gonna call the movie?'," co-star Oprah Winfrey recalls.
Lead actor Forest Whitaker, who plays longtime White House butler Cecil Gaines, says, "I was talking to Lee about it and he was frustrated by the process and he was just trying to finish the film and stuff and I just tried to offer support."
Cast member Cuba Gooding Jr. explains that Daniels wasn't sure about having his name in the title.
"Lee was very insecure about the fact that his name would be mentioned," he tells THR. "But I said, 'No, Lee, now they'll know that this is you, all-encompassing of what you do and how great a filmmaker you are.'"
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Daniels admits he's still not comfortable with his name in the title of the film.
"I try to touch impoverished kids and try to teach them that they...can become filmmakers. I don't want to say 'look at me.' I'm not ready for people to look at me," he tells THR. "I don't know if they'll know what you know, which is that the MPAA forced this decision on me."
But he has another week to make his peace with it.
"Hopefully next week I'll feel better about the title. Right now I don't feel so good about the title," he says.
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Meanwhile Gooding was happy for the extra attention the dispute gave the movie.
"People were talking about a movie I had coming out a month before it dropped, so it was great," he says.
Meanwhile, Winfrey echoed rumors that the dispute was about something else, saying, "That must've been something going on between Harvey Weinstein and [Warner Bros. parent company] Time Warner."
Lee Daniels' The Butler opens on Aug. 16.
Watch THR's interview above.