Oprah takes charge in The Butler

Oprah takes charge in The Butler
The Butler starring Aml Ameen and Oprah Winfrey.

NEW YORK - Oprah Winfrey, media mogul and talk-show host extraordinaire, cannot help herself.

Although she is meant to be sharing the spotlight with the rest of the cast of The Butler at a recent press conference, the 59-year-old invariably dominates the proceedings, whether it is with her perfectly formed, essay-length answers or media-savvy interjections to keep her co-stars on topic.

And while the self-made billionaire and American cultural icon has acted only a few times before, her supporting role as the wife of the lead character in this film - about an African-American butler who served at the White House under eight presidents - already has critics talking of an Oscar nomination.

The star-studded movie, which opens in Singapore on Thursday, features Oscar winners Forest Whitaker (The Last King Of Scotland, 2006) and Cuba Gooding Jr (Jerry Maguire, 1996), along with David Oyelowo, Terrence Howard and singers Lenny Kravitz and Mariah Carey in the central cast.

Playing presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower to Ronald Reagan are Robin Williams, James Marsden, Liev Schreiber, John Cusack and Alan Rickman.

Many of the actors attended the question-and-answer session at a New York hotel earlier this year, but in a room packed with such big personalities, Winfrey somehow manages to dwarf them all.

She reveals that Lee Daniels, the director, had pursued her relentlessly for the part, although she resisted initially because she was trying to get her television network, OWN, off the ground.

"I was telling him, 'Lee, I've got a network thing', but he wouldn't listen to me," says Winfrey, who decided to launched OWN after her influential daytime talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, ended its 15-year run in 2011.

Her acting resume is short but successful. All her films have dealt with the African-American experience and struggle for equality, from Steven Spielberg's The Color Purple (1985), which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress, to Beloved (1998), based on Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning book, which did well critically but not commercially.

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