Terrence Howard gives us a twirl

Taking on the role of magician's assistant to The Butler star.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Terrence Howard as Howard in Lee Daniels' The Butler surprised Oprah Winfrey with his coat hanger twirling expertise
Terrence Howard as Howard in Lee Daniels' The Butler surprised Oprah Winfrey with his coat hanger twirling expertise Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Following a preview screening of Lee Daniels' momentous The Butler at New York's Chelsea SVA cinema, Terrence Howard handed me his microphone from the stage, so I could ask the director and his star Oprah Winfrey about the exquisite use of her hands in the movie. Howard plays Howard in the film, the neighbour to Forest Whitaker's White House butler Cecil Gaines and his wife Gloria, played by Winfrey.

Terrence Howard hands his microphone to Anne-Katrin Titze
Terrence Howard hands his microphone to Anne-Katrin Titze Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
As the Civil Rights Movement, Cecil's relationship to his activist son, and the changing presidents and politics continue to transform, Howard, in Terrence Howard's own words, is on the "dark side" in "this story of light" and a "slave of discouragement". In other words, he tries to seduce the married woman next door. Winfrey commented on how much her director pushed her out of her comfort zone as an actress. "I would be in bra and panties on the sofa with Terrence, if it were up to him," she joked, pointing to Daniels. We might have to wait for the "four-hour long director's cut" to see this happen.

What we do see is a marvellously unsettling scene in which Howard explains their colliding worlds with the help of two wire dry-cleaner coat hangers. "That hangers thing came from I don't know where," Winfrey said, who wears every wild fashion mutation from the Fifties to the recent past in this movie, including a tight black and white Seventies jumpsuit.

Terrence Howard displays his coat hanger twirling skills at the Waldorf Astoria with The Butler screenwriter Danny Strong being interviewed in the background
Terrence Howard displays his coat hanger twirling skills at the Waldorf Astoria with The Butler screenwriter Danny Strong being interviewed in the background Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze
Howard surprised her with his coat hanger twirling on camera and the incredulous expression on her face in the film is real. Precisely the authenticity Daniels wants and gets from his performers.

After the press conference at the Waldorf Astoria the next day, I held up - taking on the role of a magician's assistant to Howard's act - two hangers I brought with me from my neighborhood dry-cleaners. Howard took on the challenge, and without a moment of hesitation began to demonstrate his skills, drawing a crowd of media.

The Butler is released in the US on August 16. Read what Liev Schreiber, James Marsden and Minka Kelly said about the film, here.

Coat hangers autographed by Terrence Howard for The Butler.
Coat hangers autographed by Terrence Howard for The Butler. Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

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