Can Lee Daniels Save 'The Butler' Film Title?

The director has appealed directly to Warner Bros. after losing an arbitration case that determined that the title must be changed.

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Lee Daniels is interviewed at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012. (Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Deadline Hollywood has obtained a moving letter that director Lee Daniels wrote to Warner Bros. Entertainment CEO Kevin Tsujihara urging him to screen The Butler. Daniels explains that he has spent four years working on the film, which tells the dark and beautiful story of our nation's racial history.

It's a last-ditch appeal to retain the name of the movie after Warner Bros. won an arbitration case over the rights to the title and the Weinstein Co., the studio in charge of releasing the film, was told to rename it. The Butler has been one of this year's most buzzed-about films, and a trailer has already been released. 

Dear Mr. Tsujihara:

I have spent the last four years of my life working on the film, The Butler, and it is the proudest moment of my professional career. I am heartbroken as I write this letter to you. I made this film so I could show my kids, my family, and my country some of the injustices and victories African Americans and their families have experienced in the fight for Civil Rights. There are so few depictions of strong black families in our cinematic history and it was of paramount importance to make this movie about a family who endured and survived unimaginable discrimination in their quest for the American Dream. Through the eyes of this loving and hard-working African American family, the film tells the story of the Civil Rights Movement from the sit-ins and the Freedom Riders, to Selma, Martin Luther King’s assassination, and the election of the first Black President. THE BUTLER is not only a story about a black family and black history; it is a universal story about family and OUR history.

I am so proud of this movie. Every member of our cast worked for almost nothing so that this story could be told with only our very small budget. If we were to change the title a mere six weeks before we open, it would most certainly hurt the film by limiting the number of people who would ultimately see this important story. This movie is not a blockbuster, nor did we intend it to be. We just wanted to tell the dark and beautiful story of our nation’s racial history, where we came from, and how far we have come.

Read more at Deadline Hollywood.

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