EXCLUSIVE: Daniels is coming off two Academy Award nominations for  his last film, Precious, including Best Director and for Best Picture.  He also won Best Director Award at the Independent Spirit Awards for what was his second film as director, the Helen Mirren-Cuba Gooding Jr-starrer Shadowboxer was his debut. This is a surprise move, as his WME reps have pretty much tied down his next film after months of work. Daniels is likely to helm The Butler for Sony Pictures Entertainment, with Denzel Washington attached to play the title role of Eugene Allen, an African American servant in the White House over 34 years who had a unique perspective on the civil rights struggle and was invited back after retirement to witness the inauguration of the first African American president, Barack Obama. Daniels has been rewriting a script by Recount‘s Danny Strong. Laura Ziskin is producing.

Daniels is also attached to the independently-financed Selma (The Weinstein Company is prepared to come aboard as distributor), which is based on the life of Martin Luther King Jr., with Plan B producing. WME also closed a deal to attach him to a remake of the 1957 pic Nights of Cabiria. Daniels, who started his career as casting director on Purple Rain before moving up to produce such films as Monster’s Ball and The Woodsman, has also been circling the Kander and Ebb musical The Scottboro Boys, which just ended its Broadway run.