The big Ziegfeld premiere for “Lee Daniels’ The Butler” was as star studded as the film. And the stars stayed later at the Bowery Hotel party for as long an amount of time as they appeared in the film. Mariah Carey is on screen for two short (and dramatic) scenes. She stayed at the party for about twenty minutes. Ditto Oprah Winfrey, although she’s in the movie in two thirds of the scenes. But she, Stedman Graham, and Gayle King made a beeline for a side exit before almost anyone could talk to her.
Oprah’s been getting a lot of praise for her role, especially from me. But I’d seen “The Butler” once before last night. Stedman had not. When the film was over, he — like a lot of us– clamored up the center aisle of the Ziegfeld to try and be near his date. But Oprah was swarmed up by fans and publicists and security guards after the movie got a standing ovation and the cast was introduced.
“Is this the first time you’ve seen it?” I asked Stedman, who is very tall and now is gray. He looks like he should run for the U.S. Senate. “Yes, first time,” he said. And? “She was amazing. She’s had a tough time the last couple of years,” Graham said. I think he meant with the OWN network. “Now things are turning around. I’m not sure she believes it.”
I mentioned the Oscar buzz to Gayle. “You know Oprah,” she said. “She won’t allow us to discuss it.”
At the start of the screening, Harvey Weinstein joked: “Thanks to Warner Bros. for $50 million of free publicity. We were going to play the 10 minute short film first,” he said, referring to the 1916 film that prevented him from using the title. “But no one could find it.”
In the audience was the cast including Forest Whitaker, David Oyelowo, Lenny Kravitz, Cuba Gooding Jr., Jane Fonda, Liev Schreiber (with wife Naomi Watts), James Marsden, Minka Kelly, YaYa DaCosta, screenwriter Danny Strong and director Lee Daniels. Some non cast members included Marisa Tomei and Debbie Harry.
Also at the premiere: the once and always Major league Baseball home run king Hank Aaron. He sat quietly with his lovely wife, and was not introduced. I was so thrilled to meet him, but I did try and ask about A-Rod and Biogenesis, etc. Mr. Aaron deftly avoided getting into it. Remember, Barry Bonds claims 7 more lifetime home runs, but he was a juicer. .