Director Lee Daniels has confirmed Mike Epps will play comedian Richard Pryor in his forthcoming biopic.
Lee Daniels broke the news via Twitter by posting a picture of himself with Mike Epps and Oprah Winfrey at a script reading.
Oprah Winfrey, who Lee Daniels directed in The Butler, will play Richard Pryor’s grandmother.
Mike Epps, who has acted in The Hangover and Resident Evil, also posted a photo of himself kissing the ring of Richard Pryor’s widow Jennifer Lee, for “the blessing”.
Several other stars, including America’s Got Talent host Nick Cannon, Michael B. Jordan and Marlon Wayans, were reported to have been in talks to play Richard Pryor in the film.
Mike Epps will play comedian Richard Pryor in his forthcoming biopic
Richard Pryor is widely regarded as one of America’s most influential comedians.
Before Richard Pryor’s death from a heart attack in December 2005 at the age of 65, both he and his wife had earmarked Mike Epps to play him in a film that they would have produced.
The comedian had suffered from multiple sclerosis for many years prior to his death.
Mike Epps, who called Richard Pryor “the wizard of comedy”, has since played him in 2013’s still-to-be-released biopic Nina, starring Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone.
Oprah Winfrey also took to social media to announce the casting, posting a picture on Instagram and Twitter.
Using the hashtag #RichardPryorMovie, Oprah Winfrey wrote that she, Lee Daniels and Mike Epps had “just finished a great 1st read session”.
Oprah Winfrey will play Richard Pryor’s grandmother Marie Carter, according to Entertainment Tonight.
Lee Daniels’ movie The Butler is based on the story of Eugene Allen, who worked for 34 years in the White House under eight presidents.
Eugene Allen was hired in 1952 as a pantry worker and worked his way up to butler after several years. This contrasts the movie, which has Cecil Gaines starting to work as a butler immediately. In 1980, during the Reagan administration, Eugene Allen was promoted to maitre d’, the position he held when he retired in 1986.
Eugene Allen’s name was changed to Cecil Gaines for the movie.
“While the movie The Butler is set against historical events, the title character and his family are fictionalized,” states director Lee Daniels.
Louis Gaines character, portrayed by actor David Oyelowo, is entirely fictional
“We were able to borrow some extraordinary moments from Eugene’s real life to weave into the movie,” he added.
Danny Strong, who penned The Butler script, told WorldandFilm.com: “It’s important to understand, there’s a reason why the character’s name is Cecil Gaines. Because this is not the Eugene Allen story. It’s not just about him. We were hoping to capture the essence of Eugene Allen, and I think we did. But it’s not just about him. It’s about several other people I spoke to that worked at the White House as well so that the film would create this universal truth for many people of what that experience was like.”
The Louis Gaines character (Cecil Gaines’ eldest son), portrayed by actor David Oyelowo, is entirely fictional, as is the subplot involving the character. This includes Louis Gaines joining the Freedom Riders and the Black Panthers, and the rift that develops between him and his father as a result.
In real life, Eugene and Helene Allen only had one son, not two.
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The Butler, a star-studded drama inspired by African-American Eugene Allen who served as a White House butler to eight presidents, was the top draw at North American cinemas this weekend.
Lee Daniels’ new movie, which stars Forest Whitaker, took an estimated $25 million in the US and Canada between Friday and Sunday.
“We did not expect it to do this well,” said a spokesman for its distributor.
In contrast, comic book sequel Kick-Ass 2 could only manage fourth place with a first weekend haul of $13.5 million.
That was less than the $19.8 million its predecessor made in its first weekend in the US and Canada in April 2010.
Kick-Ass 2‘s takings were swelled, however, by the $6.3 million it made in ticket sales outside North America.
According to The Weinstein Company’s Erik Lomis, the involvement of Oprah Winfrey was “a significant factor” in The Butler‘s success.
“Her publicity machine really kicked into high gear,” he said of the talk show queen, whose appearance as Forest Whitaker’s wife marks her first starring role since 1998’s Beloved.
“An Oprah Winfrey endorsement virtually guarantees you a hit,” agreed Paul Dergarabedian of box office analysts Hollywood.com.
The Butler was the top draw at North American cinemas this weekend
According to the Hollywood Reporter, The Butler appealed strongly to black church-goers, a demographic specifically courted in its promotional materials.
Starring Forest Whitaker as the fictional manservant Cecil Gaines, Lee Daniels’ The Butler co-stars Robin Williams, John Cusack, Mariah Carey and Jane Fonda.
The film’s slightly tortuous nomenclature came about after the Weinstein Company lost a legal battle with Warner Brothers over the right to use the title The Butler.
Warner Bros comedy We’re the Millers held onto second place in this week’s chart, making $17.8 million in its second week in US and Canadian cinemas.
Last week’s top film, Matt Damon’s sci-fi thriller Elysium, dropped to third place after making an estimated $13.6 million between Friday and Sunday.
Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher as the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was the third new entry in this week’s Top 10, claiming seventh place with a first weekend tally of $6.7 million.
That was almost twice as much made by Paranoia, a corporate espionage thriller starring Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford that made its debut in 13th spot with a $3.5 million haul.
North American box office:
- Lee Daniels’ The Butler – $30.5 million
- We’re the Millers -$17.8 million
- Elysium – $13.6 million
- Kick-Ass 2 – $13.5 million
- Planes – $13.1 million