Reporting Lynne Hayes-Freeland
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The movie “The Butler” opens on big screens across the country this weekend and there’s already buzz about Academy Awards with the all-star cast.
But, the road to the big screen goes through Pittsburgh.
Writer Will Haygood, who now works for the Washington Post, was the only reporter to ever interview the actual butler, Eugene Allen, whose life the movie is based upon.
Haygood worked for the old Pittsburgh Press from 1982-83.
“This is a story about a man who pretty much worked all his life in the shadows,” Haygood said.
Haygood wanted to tell a story about an African-American in the White House on the eve of President Barack Obama’s historic election in 2008. When he found Allen, he found a man that served eight presidents over more than 30 years in the White House.
“I said, ‘Are you sure that nobody has ever written a narrative of your life?’ And he said, ‘If you think I’m worthy, you’ll be the first.’ And I had to turn away from him because I got tears in my eyes,” Haygood said. “He could leave the most powerful address in the country and go back to his native Virginia and walk into segregated bathrooms sometimes.”
Haygood, the author of several other books, is excited about seeing his first story come to the big screen with the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Forest Whitaker and Cuba Gooding Jr. in starring roles. But, it’s the story of Allen, that first appeared in the Washington Post, then became a book and now the big screen.
“Maybe they’re a small stitch in the American flag, but when you look at it in terms history and where African-Americans have come from, then that stich is very large in their legacy,” Haygood said.