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  • Are you political, Mr. Gaines?

  • - No, sir. - Good.

  • We have no tolerance for politics

  • at the White House.

  • I'm Cecil Gaines. I'm the new butler.

  • This is an opportunity to show the complexities

  • that make up the African-American male and female.

  • [woman] You know he got that job hisself.

  • The White House called him. He didn't call the White Hous.

  • They done swore him to some kind of secret code.

  • It's a great American story that needs to be told.

  • This person is treading a road that has not been walked before

  • for others to be able to walk through.

  • Something special is going on down here, Dad.

  • - Mr. President. - I know your son is a freedom rider.

  • It's a civil rights story, but it's really a father and son story,

  • and the father and son story, it transcends race.

  • You know what they gonna do to you? They gonna kill you.

  • [man] This country treats us like dogs.

  • You're talking about the president. You need to go.

  • - What? - Get the hell out!

  • I'm sorry, Mr. Butler. I didn't mean to make fun of your hero.

  • Everything you are and everything you have

  • is 'cause of that butler.

  • Action!

  • - [indistinct] - Cut.

  • [vocalizes]

  • [shouts indistinctly]

  • To me, The Butler is not just about

  • the character the butler.

  • It's about a certain kind of middle class,

  • African-American family.

  • And through this historical drama,

  • we get to bring to life

  • the sensitivities and connection

  • that we all share and feel in our humanity,

  • and you get to see that their story

  • is really our story.

  • [TV plays indistinctly]

  • It's an incredible task

  • to take on this historic, epic story.

  • [screaming]

  • [Daniels] I've never seen a film

  • that chronicles the civil rights movement

  • from the beginning to Obama,

  • and I'm really excited about it.

  • ...who still wonders

  • if the dream of our founders is alive in our time.

  • [Cuba Gooding, Jr.] This movie is showing the progression

  • of African-Americans and what we have accomplished,

  • not just with individualistic feats,

  • but how we as a people have overcome oppression.

  • It's a really important statement to make,

  • and I'm proud as an actor to be part of it.

  • The movie got started with an article

  • in the Washington Post, by Wil Haygood,

  • which ran just after President Obama's election.

  • [Haygood] I said to myself, it would be unique

  • if I could find someone who had worked in the White House

  • during the era of segregation

  • and I wanted to go back as far as I could.

  • Somebody told me that there ws this White House butler

  • who was there for eight presidential administrations

  • named Gene Allen.

  • While it was a wonderfully epic story

  • to think about being able to tell

  • a civil rights story across all of those president,

  • but what really attracted us was the personal story,

  • the personal story of this butler and his family.

  • I'm Cecil Gaines.

  • - It's a pleasure to meet you. - And you as well.

  • Cecil Gaines was born in Macon County, Georgia.

  • His father was killed when he was a little child...

  • - [gunshot] - ...by the owner

  • of the plantation that they worked on.

  • Ultimately, Cecil as a child,

  • was brought into the house to become a servant.

  • Quiet when you're serving,

  • I don't even want to hear you breathe.

  • That's where he starts his first training to be a butler.

  • Then he left there and went on to get another jo,

  • and ultimately, from that work he did there,

  • he was asked to move to the White House,

  • and he became a butler for eight presidents.

  • They say this new white boy's smooth.

  • Gentlemen, the president's arriving.

  • At that time to have a position working in the White House,

  • it was a really big deal.

  • In the '30s, when my father was coming of age,

  • they weren't handing out any CEO jobs.

  • These people got up every day and went to work.

  • [Lenny Kravitz] We're telling the story

  • of these people that worked in this place,

  • that saw so much, that were a part of history.

  • It's interesting just to see how

  • these people became parts of these presidents' families.

  • I am thrilled to be working with all of you

  • over the next four years.

  • Eight years, John.

  • Well, you see who wears the pants around here.

  • [laughing]

  • It takes you in a time warp

  • not to just one specific time period,

  • but through eight presidencies,

  • but all from the unique perspective

  • of this specific character,

  • and I think that's what makes this really interesting.

  • I had to write mini movies of each presidency

  • because we cover every presidency

  • from Eisenhower to Reagan,

  • and I had to be extremely knowledgeable

  • of those administrations.

  • [Winfrey] Most people when you hear the term butler,

  • you think of a servant, you think of bowing down,

  • you think of service.

  • The way Forest has handled this character,

  • he feels noble to me.

  • Ready.

  • Do you have any children?

  • Yes, I have two sons.

  • Do they go to an all-colored school?

  • Yes, sir, they do.

  • We live in a world where to a great extent,

  • certainly young people

  • and even people of my generation

  • some of them don't know the history.

  • The state guard just blocked all the colored kids again.

  • Faubus promised me the guards would escort the kids in.

  • The governor of Arkansas lied, Mr. President.

  • What is wrong with him?

  • Why is he forcing me to do this?

  • [Eisenhower] I have today issued an executive order

  • directing the use of troops under federal authority

  • to aid in the execution of federal law

  • at Little Rock, Arkansas.

  • The fires of discord are burning

  • in every city north and south.

  • Really, it's all of us who must overcome

  • the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice,

  • and we shall overcome.

  • You realize how intense it was, how violent it was

  • and how provocative it was,

  • and these changes, which now, having a black president,

  • that's kind of the whole purpose of the script to say,

  • "Do you remember?

  • Do you remember what it was like?"

  • The stories of Selma

  • and Montgomery bus boycotts

  • and the Freedom Riders, and the sit-ins,

  • I found it some of the most dramatic and powerful history

  • I have ever read.

  • I never understood what you all went through

  • until I saw that.

  • My brother says these kids have, uh, changed his heart.

  • They've changed mine too.

  • [Whitaker] Cecil, because of the way he was raised,

  • coming from the Deep South, coming from so much oppression,

  • all these different things that he's seen,

  • he's taken on a position of not bucking the system.

  • And his son becomes a civil rights activist,

  • I think because of things that he's seen in his father.

  • Something special's going on down here, Dad.

  • What's so special about another colored man in chains?

  • What are you doing with my hard-earned money?

  • Are you even in school?

  • I'm trying to change the way Negroes...

  • You're breaking the law.

  • That judge just sentenced you

  • to 30 days in the county workhouse.

  • You fixing to get killed?

  • If I can't sit at any lunch counter I want,

  • then I might as well be dead.

  • Louis gravitates from one force

  • in the shape of his father

  • to this kind of force of nature.

  • You looking for Love, boy?