So, you know
Woody Allen, of course. The filmmaker who’s seemingly been a critics’ darling, since the
early 70’s; Your typical liberal New Yorker, who also loves to play jazz.
But there’s that one thing though. You know what I’m talking about. That one thing
that's been whispered about, or even loudly discussed, ever since Allen’s started writing
and directing his own films. And that thing is, the fact
that you never see black people in his movies.
And considering that most of his
films have been set in New York, one of
the most racially diverse cities on the entire planet, how is it that black people are
virtually non-existent in his films?
Well that's not entirely true. There
have been a few exceptions. There was Sonia Rolland playing Josephine Baker in "Midnight in Paris," although she was basically relegated to the background, as an
extra with no lines. And there was Hazelle Goodman in his 1997 film "Deconstructing Harry," playing... take a guess, a prostitute but of course. Maybe the most significant presence of a black actor in a Woody Allen film was when Chiwetel Ejiofor appeared in "Melinda and Melinda."
And that’s about as much as I can come up with.
So what's the problem? Why hasn’t Allen had black
actors in his films, especially in starring roles?
Well, he was
just recently asked that question in a profile about him, in the New York Observer
(HERE). When asked why black actors haven't appeared in his films, the writer of
the piece states that Allen was “horrified” when the subject was brought up.
But Allen has his reasons. It’s very simple. According to the filmmaker: “Not unless I write a story that
requires it. You don’t hire people based on race. You hire people based on who
is correct for the part. The implication is that I’m deliberately not hiring
black actors, which is stupid. I cast only what’s right for the part. Race,
friendship means nothing to me except who is right for the part.”
Run that by me again...
Talk about contradictory. He says he doesn’t hire black
actors unless the story requires it, but, at the same time, he says he doesn’t hire based
HUH? I’ve read his response a few times
already, and it still doesn’t make sense.
But not to
fear, because, as he says in the interview, Allen is friends with both Chris Rock (who he once took out to dinner
in Rome), and Spike Lee: “I’m friendly with Spike Lee. We don’t socialize, but I
don’t socialize with anyone [...] I don’t have white friends
Woody. Always good for a laugh.
So what do
you think about this? Or maybe you really don’t care? Or maybe you don't think Woody Allen has to put black actors in his films. Or is Allen really being upfront
and honest about how he and other white filmmakers think? That is, unless the part actually
calls for a black or POC actor, casting an actor of color is not even something that occurs to them. That shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone, should it?
is, basically, if you’re a black actor, don’t bother showing up at any casting calls
for Allen’s movie. But hey, Tyler Perry is still hiring.