Oprah Winfrey wins an award for her acting role in "The Butler'"
“ Ms. Winfrey, the actress, inhabits Gloria Gaines with such gusto – she makes you forget Oprah the impresario,” - SBIFF executive director Roger Durling
Oprah Winfrey is primarily known for her ongoing role as a media mogul and television presenter, however, the billionaire and philanthropist is also an actress. She was recently awarded for her role in the film, “The Butler” by filmmaker Lee Daniels, at the 29th Santa Barbara International Film Festival; this honor has been shared in the past by industry stalwarts such as Julianne Moore, Kate Winslet, Jarvier Bardem, Naomi Watts, Daniel Day- Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, and Annette Bening. Winfrey essayed the role of character Gloria Gaines with passion and conviction, and even encouraged the possibility of an Oscar nomination thanks to her stellar performance.
Being in front of the camera is a feat which is not unknown to Winfrey, who has been a known face on television and on the big screen since the mid 80’s when she worked as a news presenter, moving on swiftly to become a beloved talk show host. Her initial acting role began with the 1985 film, “The Color Purple”, based on the book of the same name by author Alice Walker. She received critical praise for her acting efforts, and also earned an Academy Award nomination. The1998 film, “Beloved” by Jonathan Demme saw her don the role of a producer as well as an actress. While the film did not do very well, receiving limited critical appreciation, what was clear was that she was bitten by the acting bug and would return to it when the opportunity arose.
Displaying her trademark concern for being associated with, and promoting causes of social or historic importance, Winfrey has spoken at length about her initial reluctance to essay the character of Gloria Gaines, the wife of butler Cecil Gaines, who was one of the first men of color to work at the White House, sharing her hopes and fears pertaining to being capable of representing the character correctly. Based on a true story, the film is set during a time of great social change, and focuses on the life of a man, based on the real life character of a man named Eugene Allen, who was one of the first men of color to set foot in the White House as a domestic servant. Portrayed as an eyewitness to history, the life and times of this man and his fascinating life and observation of the people around him set the base of the film, with the character of his wife serving as a sharp contrast to his soft and empathetic character. Winfrey has stated in retrospect that she did not wish to embarrass herself since the character she was portraying was quite the opposite of her in every way imaginable; however the beauty of her acting has left no doubt in the minds of critics and viewers alike that she has done a stellar job, thereby adding yet another feather to her considerable cap of achievements.