Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Casting Call

I remember hearing, I think, a triple J reviewer commenting on I Am Sam, and I basically took their opinion and that was mine.

It was this: I Am Sam, featuring Sean Penn in the titular role of Sam a downs syndrome single father. Also featured  in the same film were several actors in the role of Sam's friends, who actually had downs syndrome. The reviewer and I said for a long time (because honestly, how often does the need to rethink I Am Sam come up?) - why couldn't they have given the lead role to someone who actually had Downs Syndrome? The movie itself clearly proved that there were capable actors.

I thought it a valid argument, and on one level, the point is valid. But the money isn't.

You are or I am, thinking about with the following erroneous assumption - we are going to see the film. We see the film, and we are pleased to see a person with Downs Syndrome in a lead role of a feature film. Why couldn't I Am Sam have been made without Sean Penn?

Now think like an executive producer. You don't even have to be subjective about it. I Am Sam has probably been made with an actual downs syndrome lead many times, possibly a couple of times a year. Just nobody saw it, there was nothing there to sell the film, it never got earmarked for any kind of budget or any kind of release.

Find a way to put Sean Penn into that film though, and people are going to see it. See it and get offended. But they see it. As an EP that's a better outcome than the movie getting made and people not seeing it but being glad that it exists.

There is no big-ticket downs syndrome actor.

Move on to present day casting controversies. The new Moses biopic. It got compared to the Dreamworks Animated feature 'The Prince of Egypt' that I believe was a commercial success, the first judeo-religious film to do such in a long time and featured characters that looked like North Africans. Voices were done by African American celebrities like Mariah Carey and so forth.

The new live-action one features nobody that looks north african, or even African-American. It has Christian Bale in the lead role and Joel Edgerton as the lead antagonist. It makes hollywood look like it's going backwards, undoing the Prince of Egypt and getting back to Charlton Heston as Moses days. At best that live action hasn't progressed since Heston played Moses.

That's thinking in terms of social progress though, and not in terms of money. Recast the film with the biggest black names Hollywood has to offer, Denzel, Samuel L Jackson, go younger, Idris Elba, Anthony Mackie - there are great black actors out there to cast.

I don't know shit, but I would wager - that even with an Oscar winner like Denzel, there is a bottom line impact having an all black cast does to the box office. Oprah Winfrey's Beloved adaptation comes to mind.

Thus as ridiculous as it sounds if you had put Tom Cruise in Denzel's role for Training day, some EP would have one less Oscar and if stories are to be believed, $14 million dollars richer. And I would guess they would have done it if they could. I'm guessing Cruise can only do so many films a year and doesn't vet for roles that are really ridiculous for him to fill.

If you can't see where I'm going, or rather, have gone, I saw today on a tumblr feed I follow that 'Ghost In The Shell' is getting made into a live action adaptation, and Scarlett Johansen has been cast in the lead. some celebrity or somebody I don't know tweeted that they should have cast the girl from Pacific Rim to play the role.

Firstly, Ghost in the Shell doesn't need to be adapted into live action at all. It has very little potential to be improved by the experience. The only reason you make that film, or live action 101 Dalmatians, or Watchmen is to make money.

There's no artistic need to earmark the budget and time and talent to take a risk on 'Ghost In The Shell' it's low risk. It's almost certain to be not as good as the original. The Matrix borrowed heavily from Ghost In The Shell, and you know it blew SFX wide fucken open, so you definitely don't stand to gain much from LA Ghost in The Shell. Except to shake down nerds for their cash.

So you may as well cast a big name who's played an agent in the Avengers Marvel Franchise and cast her in the lead. And as an EP rue that the lead couldn't be played by Tom Cruise, who notably played the lead in Edge of Tomorrow, also adapted from Japanese IP.

In case though, you think I am saying that this doesn't make film casting a racist enterprise, let me be clear. It is. It is completely racist.

But the executive producers are doing their job, and I fail to think on the spot of an affirmative action solution. Maybe if the US Gov. guaranteed box office returns for ethnicly appropriate casting? Maybe. And maybe that is actually worth doing.

But the racist is the movie goer. And it's as racist as the fashion industry. It's a racist phenomena that has gone on so long, it has become entrenched. Such that other ethnic groups accept white models selling fashion to them, and white leads acting out their history. But not the reverse.

For some reason, a bunch of people will fork over $20 to see a white man play moses, a white man play a retard and a white woman play a Japanese special agent, but not the reverse.

And I don't believe in consumer activism.So there's your fucken problem pending a solution.

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