Harvey Weinstein has a lot banking on Lee Daniels' civil rights drama, The Butler, and as usual he's putting every ounce of his PR muscle into molding it into a potential Oscar contender. But he may be about to hit a hurdle not even he can spin his way around, as Warner Bros. has filed a dispute over the film's title, claiming rights thanks to a 1916 silent film that has been sitting in their vault untouched for years. The initial rounds of the feud have gone to WB, with the MPAA deciding in their favor. But Weinstein knows how disastrous a new title would be with the release date only a month away, and he's pulled out the big guns by hiring a high-powered attorney, and by taking his side of the story to the airwaves.
Appearing on the CBS Morning News, Harvey Weinstein came out and said the real motivation behind what WB is doing centers on...what else....money. To put it simply, The Weinstein Company has a 2.5% stake in The Hobbit franchise, and WB wants him to give it up. Considering how lucrative Peter Jackson's films are, even such a small percentage amounts to millions, far more than The Butler is likely to reel in, so naturally Weinstein isn't going to just hand that over without a fight....
Weinstein: "I went through this with 'Bully' and I’ve gone through this all my life. My dad taught me to fight injustice. This is unjust. This movie is coming out August 16. I was asked by two execs at Warner Brothers, which I’m happy testify to, that if I gave them back the rights to 'The Hobbit' they would drop the claim. For a 1916 short? This was used as a bullying tactic."
He went on to highlight just how often titles are reused, specifically noting movies like Heat and Unstoppable, to show just how ludicrous WB's stance on this whole issue is. Not to mention it makes the MPAA look complicit in all of this for making such a ruling, which forbids Weinstein from even using the word 'Butler' at all.
Meanwhile, a new clip from the film has just been released with Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, and David Oyelowo. Whitaker plays Cecil Gaines, based on the real life Eugene Allen, the White House butler who served more than thirty years under eight presidential administrations. In the clip, he and his wife have a frank discussion with their son on breaking down racial barriers, with the crossover appeal of Sidney Poitier as the centerpiece of the argument.
The Butler, or whatever it will be called, opens on August 16th. [Moviefone]