August 1st, 2013
04:30 PM ET
If you want to be a friend of Oprah Winfrey's, there's one word that better not be in your vocabulary - even if you happen to be the director of her latest movie.
That particular word starts with an "N."
Lee Daniels, who helmed "Precious" and now has directed Winfrey in the upcoming drama "The Butler," admits in Parade magazine that "It’s a word I used quite a bit, until Oprah sat me down and talked to me about its power."
"You cannot be my friend and use that word around me," the 59-year-old media titan says in the new issue of Parade. "It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it. … I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree."
It's a relevant discussion, not only because of recent events - the controversy surrounding Paula Deen's use of the word comes to mind - but also because "The Butler" illustrates an era that was blighted with the kind of brutality Winfrey recalls.
Daniels' film is based on the story of Eugene Allen, an African-American who worked as the head butler in the White House from 1952 to 1986. Forest Whitaker plays the film version of Allen in the character Cecil Gaines, and Winfrey plays his wife, Gloria, who's battling a drinking problem.
The part is Winfrey's first dramatic role since she starred in 1998's "Beloved," and she says it took some convincing on Daniels' part before she signed on.
"Lee was relentless. I remember being on my mountain in Maui, where I go to try to restore myself. And he called saying, 'You need to get ready, because you are Gloria,'" Winfrey remembers.
"So I did it to have the opportunity to work with Lee. I also did it because Gloria represented to me every woman of that era who sacrificed herself … never bringing her own dreams to fruition because family took precedence over everything," she continued. "It’s a story many have not seen with black people in these roles, because usually we’re one extreme or another. But to see that we are people who love our children, who have the same aspirations as everybody else—I just love that."
It's for that reason that Winfrey had a simple response when asked who most needs to see "The Butler."
"Here's your answer," she said. "People need to see this movie."
"Lee Daniels' The Butler," which also stars Liev Schreiber, James Marsden, Minka Kelly and John Cusack, will open August 16.
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