You got served: Weinstein fighting for ‘The Butler’ title
Harvey Weinstein loves a good fight -- especially if it helps him promote one of his company’s movies.
So when the MPAA’s title registration bureau decided this week that the Weinstein Co. couldn’t use the title “The Butler” on Lee Daniels’ upcoming biopic about the life of a longtime White House butler because it’s also the title of a 1916 short film owned by Warner Bros., Weinstein immediately went into outrage mode.
Today, he announced the hiring of prominent attorney David Boies, who represented Al Gore in the 2000 recount fight and gay marriage advocates in the recent Supreme Court challenge to California’s same-sex marriage ban, as well as filmmaker Michael Moore when he ran afoul of the Treasury Department after visiting Cuba for the Weinstein Co. film “Sicko.”
Boies is already threatening to file an antitrust suit, arguing that “the suggestion that there is a danger of confusion between the Weinstein Co.’s 2013 feature movie and a 1917 short that has not been shown in theaters, television, DVDs or in any other way for almost a century makes no sense. The award has no purpose except to restrict competition and is contrary to public policy.”
It’s actually a 1916 short, counselor, but, hey, what’s a year for a silent, black-and-white movie that practically no one had heard of before this week? It’s hard to argue Boies’ point and even harder to guess the reason why Warner Bros. decided to stick it to Weinstein by taking the matter to industry arbitration in the first place.
Might Warner Bros. be settling a score from this past Oscar season when Weinstein’s “Silver Linings Playbook” competed against its own “Argo” for best picture? “Argo” did ultimately prevail, but perhaps egos remain bruised months after the combative campaign.
“The Butler” will likely retain its title, though Weinstein might have to give up a little something to make this happen. With the movie’s Aug. 16 release date a mere six weeks away, it’s a little late to rebrand it now. And Weinstein clearly believes it has some awards-season potential, what with its gentle, historical uplift and a cast that includes Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, Robin Williams, Jane Fonda and John Cusack.
But just in case Weinstein finds himself in a last-minute bind, social media users have been volunteering to lend a hand in retitling the film. The hashtag #NewButlerTitles began trending last night. Among the nominees:
“You Got Served”
“The Presidents’ Butler”
“He Who Butled”
“Django: Still Chained”
“I Can’t Believe It’s Not (‘The Butler’)”
“The Man Who Set the Table”
“Paula Deen’s New Nightmare”
“Butler. Gerard Butler”
“Glad I Got Out Before I Had to Clean Up After Clinton”
“Oscar Bait: The Movie”
“The Help 2"
Or maybe he could go the Tyler Perry route and simply call it “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” For a filmmaker who already has the wordy “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push by Sapphire’” on his resume, it’s (almost) a step in the right direction.
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