WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — Amid criticism and accusations that makers of historical blockbuster “The Butler” were unfair in their portrayal of former President Ronald Reagan, director Lee Daniels and producer Harvey Weinstein are defending their work.
“I think that we’re extremely fair to – really fair to Reagan,” Daniels told CBS This Morning during an interview.
Daniels’ biopic of a White House butler who served eight presidents topped the weekend box office – raking in more than $24 million — while three other new releases failed to connect with fans.
“Lee Daniels’ The Butler” features an ensemble cast led by Forest Whitaker – whose character, producers confirmed, was based upon real-life butler Eugene Allen – and Oprah Winfrey in her first big-screen appearance since 1998’s “Beloved.”
Complaints regarding the movie’s depiction of Reagan center around a perceived indifference to hardships occurring under apartheid and general racial insensitivity on the part of Daniels’ version of Reagan, played by actor Alan Rickman.
Some have gone so far as to call certain scenes “Hollywood malpractice,” in particular Paul Kengor, a historian and author of two books about the life of Reagan.
“Ronald Reagan was appalled by apartheid, but also wanted to ensure that if the apartheid regime collapsed in South Africa that it wasn’t replaced by a Marxist-totalitarian regime allied with Moscow and Cuba that would take the South African people down the same road as Ethiopia, Mozambique, and, yes, Cuba,” Kengor was quoted as saying by the Hollywood Reporter.
He further asserted, “Clearly, blacks in South Africa lost rights under apartheid, but Communism was a far greater infringement … In Communist nations, people were literally lined up and slaughtered – and starved – on mass scales. Has everyone forgotten this?”
Weinstein specifically addressed concerns regarding that part of the movie during the interview.
“There’s a scene at the end of it, when Ronald Reagan did oppose sanctions be put against South Africa. However, and even his own party – the head of the Republican Party says, ‘Please, Ronny, this is not going to do well. You’re going to get overruled,’ which he did get overruled by the Senate and the Republican Party voted against it,” Weinstein noted.
He further defended the depiction by highlighting the closeness of the two characters on-screen, adding, “We show his misgivings about that. That was a decision that he regretted, it’s shown in the movie. He probably has the best relationship with butler of any president.”
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