In the original script, Cecil Gaines meets President Barack Obama. Lee Daniels considered asking the president to play himself. Since the film was shot during the height of the 2012 presidential election, Daniels decided to cast actor Orlando Eric Street in the role instead. The scene was shot but ultimately discarded, and archival footage of the real President Obama was used.
Warner Brothers Pictures, owners of a 1916 silent short film called The Butler (1916), filed a claim with the MPAA to rename this film. The MPAA allowed the Weinstein Company to add Lee Daniels' name in front of the title, under the condition that his name was "75% the size of The Butler". On July 23, 2013, the distributor unveiled a revised film poster, with the title "Lee Daniels' The Butler".
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Some aspects of the movie conflicted with the real life happenings of Eugene Allen; the inspiration for the character Cecil Gaines. In the movie, Gaines was caught stealing cake from a hotel, got hired as a waiter at the same hotel and later impressed a White House administrator who happened to be there. In real life, Allen just applied for the job and got it. Gaines' sons were depicted as one having died in Vietnam and the other joining the Black Panthers. In real life, Allen's son who went to Vietnam survived and went on to work for the State Department. The affair by his alcoholic wife was also made up for the movie.