Lee Daniels Teaches Oprah To Smoke

8.14.2013

By Matthew Breen

And other tales from the set of 'The Butler'

Out director Lee Daniels’s new film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, features hottie James Marsden as JFK (as we explain in our September cover story), as well as Oprah Winfrey in a very rare film performance (her first serious role since 1998 adaptation of Toni Morrison's Beloved). Although The Oprah is the embodiment of ease and proficiency in every way, there were a couple aspects to the production that worried her.

Her character had to smoke. And The Oprah knows that smoking kills. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy), was asked:

Vanity Fair: Did Oprah complain about having to smoke all the time?

Daniels: Of course. She didn’t know how, so I literally taught her how. She had never held a cigarette. And we don’t have time for rehearsal. We don’t rehearse in my films, because time is money, and we don’t have any money. We learn on the spot. I think she did a good job.

Vanity Fair: She looked natural. I was just wondering if it annoyed her.

Daniels: She got into it a little too much. I said, Oprah, it’s addictive. That’s the reason we’ve got to be careful, honey. [Laughs.]

So Oprah doesn’t know how to do everything! Vanity Fair also reported on Daniels’s and Winfrey’s conversation with Oprah’s best pal Gayle King at a post-screening conversation. Picture it: Oprah in bed, making love to her husband (the character of a real-life White House butler to eight administrations, played by Forest Whitaker):

King: [D]idn’t she ask a lot of questions?

Daniels: Too many damn questions! Oprah is just full of questions. I couldn’t answer enough questions. They’re in the bed—it’s the scene where she and Forest were together and they’re making love. So she looks around and she says, “What time is it?” I said, “It doesn’t matter what time it is.” “What time is it, Lee?” I said, “It doesn’t matter. You’re getting laid. Shut up!” She pulled the covers up over her head.

King: Is it morning?

Daniels: What difference does it make?!

Winfrey: Is it morning? Do I have the rollers in? Am I trying to get breakfast done?

The Oprah was too classy to submit to one of Daniels’s other requests for her character. For more on that, click here.

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