The Rittenhouse Hotel Interview - Lee Daniels & Cuba Gooding, Jr: LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Since April, anxiety has been my constant companion. I've been out of work and living on my savings, trying to figure out how to make what I love, writing this blog and the social media aspects of it, what I do.  I'm no closer to figuring it all out, but sometimes you get a sign from the Universe that says you're on the right track, keep going!

That sign came in the form of an email from Allied-THA which asked me if I'd want to interview director Lee Daniels, actor Cuba Gooding, Jr and actress Yaya Alafia at the swanky Rittenhouse Hotel, to discuss Lee Daniels' The Butler starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey.  Would I want to?!!  I couldn't get an affirmative response back fast enough and immediately set about writing questions.

The other fun part of this for me, which I've mentioned before, is going to the daytime press screenings, it feels so "insider-ish"  I know the other press peeps are all jaded about it, but I hope never to take these screenings for granted. To top it off, a double bonus of being a photog at The Butler Red Carpet Opening in Philly - so for a little while, joy became my companion and knocked anxiety on its ass.

More red carpet photos can be found on Tinsel & Tine's facebook page

By now you all should know "Lee Daniels' The Butler" is based on the true story of Eugene Allen, a black man who served as a butler in The White House for every Administration from Dwight Eisenhower (Robin Williams) to Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman) and lived long enough to not only vote for President Barack Obama, but be brought back to The White House to meet the first black President of The United States.

I'm an African American female who grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood, have always felt, for the most part, more comfortable in white culture. In 2008, I went back to school to complete a degree and found myself at an all black school. I assimilated easier than I expected, but it's only been since this experience, that I've begun to embrace my ethnicity. It's only been in the last year or two that I've made a specific point to support black films, filmmakers & festivals on Tinsel & Tine. It's not because I set about to ever separate myself from my race, I just gravitated to what I knew.

That's not to say, I never experienced prejudice; you can't live in this world and not see the racial divide that still exists in our country; but in watching this movie – Lee Daniel's The Butler, I was emotionally and viscerally reminded that my ability to mix it up in any world that I choose, came at the cost of those who fought, held their ground and lost their lives in the Civil Rights Movement. It's also because of people like Cecil Gaines/Eugene Allen (Whitaker) who understood keeping your dignity inside the system was also a way of getting us to the next level of equality.

Lee Daniels, Alex Gibson PFS, Le Anne Lindsay, Thomasena Farrar, Cuba Gooding Jr & Yaya Alafia

Okay, back to the interview.  I started to sit down and transcribe it Q&A style, but it was so lively, you need to hear it.  We'd ask a question which would take Lee & Cuba off on great tangents. Plus a transcription doesn't capture the camaraderie between the Precious director and the actors he respects and enjoys so much.

So here's a video of the audio -

And one other thing... I had 2 questions I really wanted to ask Lee Daniels, but time didn't permit.  On the chance he reads this and wants to give a shout back, here they are:

1. Some critics didn't like “The Paperboy” because they didn't like seeing such well-known actors in uncomfortable roles, but the movie wouldn't have been green-lighted without big named actors. I've read some disparaging remarks on “The Butler” being too star-studded, but again that creates the draw. And then their was the whole controversy over the movie's title. Mentally, how do you keep the politics and business of the industry from over shadowing your creativity and love of filmmaking?

2.  What's your favorite place to eat when you're back in Philly?

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Interview with co-star of The Butler Yaya Alafia - T & T: The role you play in “The Butler” is a Freedom Rider turned Black Panther. I saw you also studied Africana Studies and International Relations at Brown, would you consider yourself a political person? Do you think you might have been a civil rights activist if you had been born in the 50's?

YA: Absolutely. I wouldn't have been a Panther, but I absolutely would have been involved. It's interesting, because, I mean, I don't know -- you can't really say. A lot of who I am is because of who my parents are. And if I had been born then, I may not have been born of them, because they were born then! (laughs). My father was one of the first SNCC workers (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and bodyguard for Stokely Carmichael (Chair of SNCC)...

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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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