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John Cusack Talks Playing Richard Nixon In Lee Daniels’s The Butler

Lee Daniels and John Cusack attend
Lee Daniels and John Cusack. Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

There’s been a lot of casting buzz surrounding The Butler, Lee Daniels’s forthcoming movie about Eugene Allen, a White House butler who served eight consecutive U.S. Presidents: The excellent Forest Whitaker has taken on the title role; Oprah Winfrey is in talks to return to the big screen as his wife; Jane Fonda is set to play Nancy Reagan (blasphemy to conservatives). And last night, Vulture confirmed that John Cusack, who has been Daniels’s rumored Richard Nixon, will indeed portray the 37th president. “Lee just asked me to do it,” he told us at the New York premiere of The Raven hosted by the Peggy Siegal Company. As for his approach to the role, he said, “I don’t know yet. I haven’t figured it out yet. We’re still working on it. You can never really do one definitive thing on a person. Not one movie, or even one novel can really sum up a person — it’s just one angle. So I need to get in Lee’s head about what he has in store, because the perspective on [the movie] is people who worked for the president, so it’s a different angle, you know? I got to feel it out. But I certainly know a lot about Nixon, because I knew Hunter [S. Thompson] real well, and he dug into Nixon’s past pretty much his whole life. He was a little obsessed with him. And I’m really interested in history and politics, so I know a lot about it.”

This will be Cusack’s second collaboration with Daniels, who also cast him as a convicted killer in his adaptation of The Paperboy. “I’m so proud of him,” Daniels told us at the after party at the Vault at Pfaff’s. “He’s so diverse as an actor.”

John Cusack Talks Playing Richard Nixon