For a second straight weekend, Lee Daniels' The Butler claims the top spot at the weekend box office. The movie spans four decades of American history and it brings together an ensemble cast of big names such as Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, John Cusack, and Jane Fonda. The film is inspired by the real-life account of Eugene Allen who served as a White House butler for eight presidents.
Ruth Carter is one of the many people behind-the-scenes who helped bring this movie to life. Carter, a two-time Oscar-nominated costume designer, had the challenging task of accurately outfitting the actors who played Jacqueline Kennedy, Nancy Reagan and dressing Oprah for her role as Gloria Gaines, the wife of the butler. "“It’s daunting for the first five minutes and then I’m like lets get to work.” said Carter at the Los Angeles premiere of the movie.
Carter, who has worked on more than 50 movies as a costumer, is used to styling high-profile celebrities on set and this movie was no different. “I had to look beyond their big names. The Oprah name and the Forest name and look at them as individual people. How am I going to transform them?”
Carter did extensive research on the fashion styles from each era and relied on books in order to re-create Jackie O's iconic look for Minka Kelly, who played the former first lady. “She loved Oleg Cassini. Oleg Cassini is a designer from the 60s that designed a lot of things for her. Everybody knows the quintessential pillbox hat." Carter said of Kennedy's style and added that, "We just tried and tried and tried until we got it right."
Overall, everyone loved her fashion choices including Oprah but it did take a little convincing with director Lee Daniels in order for him to reconsider a scene where he wanted Oprah in public wearing hair curlers and a scarf. “Oprah tried. Everybody tried to get him out of the curlers mode." she said, adding that, "I think that Lee really wanted to break the Oprah mode."
Carter felt that for Oprah's character, who was a prominent woman in her community, that she would not have worn curlers in her hair as she dropped her son off at college at the bus station. Eventually, Lee Daniels agreed and Oprah couldn't believe that he had changed his mind. Oprah called Carter and asked, "What did you say!" Carter says it just happened that she was lucky.
The Butler has been playing in theaters nationwide since August 16.