“The Butler,” a film about a man who served eight presidents in the White House, opens this weekend. But wait. That’s not its full title. It’s actually called “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” Is Lee Daniels an insane egomaniac? Nope:
First a word about the title’s clumsiness, and the story’s provenance. The director, Lee Daniels, is no stranger to clumsy titles. Four years ago he was nominated for an Oscar for “Precious,” a film whose contractual title was “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” His name appears in this contractual title because of a legal dispute over “The Butler,” a silent comedy released by Warner Brothers 97 years ago.
I figured there must be some fascinating backstory here, but in the end, not really. Those of you who have followed this all along should feel free to add interesting tidbits in comments, but as near as I can tell this really is just a lunatic Hollywood dispute based on bad blood between a couple of moguls over some previous deals. In the end, though, they really did have to change the title because Warner Bros. claimed exclusive rights to it based on a short silent film released in 1916. Don’t you just love Hollywood?