Photo Credit: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Three years ago, you could switch on ABC on any given afternoon and catch Oprah Winfrey giving away cars or gabbing with celebs. Not so any more. In the years since she ended her powerhouse talk show in 2011, Oprah hasn't been nearly as ubiquitous. But the Queen of Talk is still firing on all cylinders, overseeing her network, OWN, and -- as evidenced in the trailer below -- making her acting comeback in The Butler, a movie some critics are already calling an Oscar contender.
The story of White House butler Eugene Allen is both sweeping and personal. And with its star-studded cast (including Forest Whitaker in the title role) and director Lee Daniels (Precious) at the helm, it couldn't be a more perfect vehicle for her return to the big screen. The last time fans saw her there was 1998's Beloved -- a critical success but a box office bomb. Watch a clip here:
Oprah's onscreen presence in her latest high-profile film comes as the media mogul's fortunes are beginning to turn. OWN had a rough go of it for its first two years, when it soon became clear that Oprah's gazillions of talk show viewers weren't all migrating over to her new cable network. When OWN failed to turn a profit, the network had to lay off one fifth of its employees in March 2012. There were also some public fails, like the cancellation of Rosie O'Donnell's low-rated talk show, and some troubling, high-up staff shakeups. “Had I known that it was this difficult, I might have done something else,” she told CBS This Morning. She also vowed not to quit.
But that same month, the network brought in record ratings for her interview with Whitney Houston's family on Oprah's Next Chapter (her primetime interview show on OWN). And by September, she was back on another morning show, ABC's Good Morning America, assuring viewers that "we have made the pivot." Network executives believe the channel will start to turn a profit by the end of this year, according to The New York Times. That's partly because Winfrey's still so good at landing big interviews, like the ones she did with the Romneys and Lance Armstrong. A few of OWN's reality shows, Welcome to Sweetie Pie's and Iyanla: Fix My Life, have had some success, and Winfrey just signed a deal with Tyler Perry that has him producing scripted shows exclusively for OWN.
All in all, her place in a star-studded movie that's bound for the awards circuit may turn out to be just more icing on the cake.