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Casting against racial, gender, age, etc expectation - can it work?

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xianjiro
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Casting against racial, gender, age, etc expectation - can it work?

#1

Post by xianjiro »

Who can be Bond, James Bond?

This article isn't very good, but it does get one to think, is there a given set of physical characteristics that are required or select out a set of actors from playing a given role? Can James Bond be played by someone of Asian, African, or Native American descent? There were some angry posts on the web when it was announced that Jodie Whittaker would be the next Doctor - the first time a woman would lead Doctor Who. And remember the furor over the retooled, all woman Ghostbusters?

So, what are your thoughts? Would and now for someone completely different drinking that vodka martini work? For you? For the general public? Could Hamlet be Chinese? Can a woman play Abraham Lincoln, vampire emancipator? Can a deaf, trans, latinx play that Donald when they make the inevitable film about these days at the White House? What are the lines that can and can't be crossed?

And while we're at it, let's look at the flipside: how about famous straight actors playing gay men dying of AIDS or, and I'm unable to think of a recent example - an anglo doing blackface, brownface, or yellowface? Are any of these okay today? When should a given role be reserved for a specific group to play?

Should any actor be allowed the chance to take on any role?
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#2

Post by albajos »

The Doctor is an alien. So it is canon that everyone from their planet might change apperance when they regenerate. The Master have done so, and several others in earlier episodes.
Anyone complaining about that really don't know the lore.

James Bond is not an alien. That way he was written by Ian Fleming was the classic 60s ladies man. Changing any of that would really turn this into a whole other franchise. And we basically don't have any movies about female spies except Black Widow, do we? There's no reason to genderswap. Let the women rule their own franchise on their own terms.

Ghostbusters can be anyone. It is simply a group that catches ghosts. And in that universe ghosts exists so it makes sense that someone else takes over when they get old.
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#3

Post by maxwelldeux »

Interesting question. I can't say I have strong opinions about this, but here are some rambling thoughts...

Can it work? Absolutely - handled properly. A light and breezy example is Morgan Freeman in Shawshank - the part is written as an Irishman, and Morgan Freeman doesn't exactly look Irish. But he killed the audition and was cast. The filmmakers turned it into a moment of levity in the film when asked why he was called "Red." A more smack-in-you-face example is BabaKiueria, which casts everyone against expectation - White people are the "natives", while Black people are the "discoverers" and the people generally in power; it uses this to make a powerful commentary on how we learn about and cover other cultures.

I guess that seems to imply that integrating the counter-casting into the story can make it handled well.

In general, I'm a fan of authentic casting, and generally support this movement within casting and film making of late. I think (with nothing to back this up aside from a hunch) that there was an assumption for many years that there just weren't any good actors in XXX group - that's why you saw White people in blackface in the early years, why you see people in fat suits, mobile people in wheelchairs, etc. But we're increasingly recognizing those assumptions are wrong, and there are good actors out there in these groups. I also think it's important to model these people on screen and show these people in a positive light.

There's also physical limitations with the roles. I mean, if we're doing a biopic of Stephen Hawking in his later years, I'd really like to see someone with ALS and in a wheelchair play the role. But if you're doing a biopic over his lifespan including times when he was mobile, Eddie Redmayne is a pretty good choice.

I also think there is an overemphasis on physical characteristics in a lot of film roles, especially in more supporting roles. Like albajos said, Ghostbusters are people who bust ghosts - the shape of their genitals really has nothing to do with their ability to fight ghosts. But like with Shawshank, though Red was written as an Irishman, that was unimportant to the story, so casting Morgan Freeman in there worked. One of the many things I like about Manchurian Candidate (1962) is that (according to IMDB trivia) the psychiatrist was the first time a Black actor was cast in a role that didn't specifically call for one. Night of the Living Dead (1968) was great for a similar reason. Both films were served well by not addressing it and making it seem normal.

And on the subject of Bond, I think that's an interesting opportunity for some unique casting. I'm not familiar with the source novels, but at this point the film series has taken on a life of its own. Switching up the Bond casting is something you have to address, but there are ways to do it. Q was played by the same actor who addressed different actors as Bond. M has been the same. So if Bond was not a person, but 007, then anyone promoted to that rank would be Bond. A couple minutes at the start of the film to address it and you can get just about anyone in that role.
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#4

Post by xianjiro »

One point I'd like to add to your comments Max - when it comes to minority actors in minority roles (and think famous straight guy playing gay man dying of AIDS) there is the strong possibility that a gay man in that role would actually bring personal experiences to it. Instead of famous actor "hangin' out with AIDS patients for a day", who knows, maybe we'd even get someone taking antiretroviral therapy in the role. I get that ultimately, we want good actors in roles and actors like to be challenged, but the claim has been advanced that it can be hard for minority actors to win parts that the director/casting director have visualized a certain way thereby removing the chance for a minority actor to play a minority role is a lost chance for them to get experience and exposure.

Sorry, this sounds like I set up the discussion to pontificate. Not my intention, but I did want to introduce the idea into the discussion. I actually see all sides to this question and ultimately hope 1) minority actors have much better chances for roles and 2) a great actor shines in a great role because the actor makes the character.

Last, how many white actresses played yellow face because Hollywood didn't want to cast Asian women? Anna May Wong went to Europe because of Hollywood racism. This is just so wrong and at least it seems to be put into the historical time capsule.
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#5

Post by albajos »

"Charlton Heston playing a mexican" is basically a joke now
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#6

Post by OldAle1 »

The question I would always ask in such circumstances is: how important is the character's race/gender/sexual orientation/nationality/etc to the story/narrative that is being told? My favorite argument along these lines was on the late great IMDb forums years ago, when people were going off about Bond - many, perhaps most vehemently against the idea that Bond should be anything but a white man in his 30s. One of the people I most respected (and a British guy to boot, and a huge Bond fan) put it this way: what is the most important aspect of Bond in this era? It's his Britishness, of course. If you're making a Bond film set in 1955, and you want it at all "realistic", then Bond had better be a white male, and if he's not you're going to have to work very hard to convince the audience that it isn't a silly PC stunt. If on the other hand your Bond is set in the Britain of 2020 - why not have Jane Bond, or Gay Bond, or Black Bond? But keep him/her/they BRITISH because that's where the crux of the character's personality lies.

And I think you can apply similar attitudes elsewhere. Wonder Woman has to be female - apart from the name, her femininity is central to the character. Batman should be rich, that's central to the character, but otherwise, why not black, or female, or gay? Doctor Who as stated is an obvious one - the character can look like anybody, and be anybody, except always The Doctor. Sherlock Holmes is like Bond - if you set him in 1890, he probably ought to be a white man, but now? Who cares?

Most of the Keep My Superheroes Pure assholes forget one important thing: nearly every major Marvel & DC superhero was created by Jews - and none of the characters AFAIK were created as Jewish, and probably almost none of them have ever been re-booted as Jews. But these crybabies I'm sure would go off on WB if they dared to present a Batman whose real name was Robert Kahn* and who took time off from his nightly prowls for Passover ever year.

*Given name of Bob Kane, co-creator of the character with Bill (Milton) Finger, also Jewish.
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#7

Post by albajos »

Atom Smasher (formerly Nuklon of Infinity, Inc.) (DC Comics)
Batwoman (Kate Kane) (DC Comics)
Booster Gold (Michael Carter) (DC Comics)- Half-Jewish via grandmother Rose Levin. Non-practicing.
Colossal Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes (DC Comics)
Doc Samson (Marvel Comics
Dominic Fortune (Marvel Comics)
Firestorm (Martin Stein) (DC Comics)
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan) (DC Comics)- Matrilineally Jewish
Harley Quinn (DC Comics)
Justice (formerly Marvel Boy of the New Warriors) (Marvel Comics)
Masada (Image Comics, Awesome Entertainment)
The Monolith (DC Comics)
Nite-Owl II (DC Comics)
Prime (Malibu Comics)
Ragman (DC Comics)
Sabra (Marvel Comics)
Seraph of the Global Guardians (DC Comics)
Kitty Pride (Shadowcat) of the X-Men (Marvel Comics)
Songbird of the Thunderbolts (formerly Screaming Mimi) (Marvel Comics)
The Thing of the Fantastic Four (Marvel Comics)
Volcana (Marvel Comics)
The Escapist (Dark Horse Comics)
Wiccan—(Marvel Comics)
Iceman (Marvel Comics)—half-Jewish
Moon Knight (Marvel Comics)
Sandman (Golden Age) (DC Comics)—half-Jewish
Gertrude Yorkes of the Runaways (Marvel Comics)
Magneto (Marvel Comics)
Scarlet Witch--Half-Jewish (Marvel Comics)
Quicksilver (comics) (Marvel Comics)
Nyssa Raatko (DC Comics)
Polaris (Marvel Comics)
Sublime (Wildstorm Comics)
Reuben Flagg (First Comics)
Bernie Rosenthal (Marvel Comics)
Two-Gun Kid (Marvel Comics)
Arthur (New England Comics)
Menorah Man (Judaica Press)[1][2]
Kippah Kid (Judaica Press)
Matzah Woman (Judaica Press)
Magen David (Judaica Press)
Minyan Man (Judaica Press)
Dreidel Maidel (Judaica Press)
Shabbos Queen (Judaica Press)
Zatanna (DC Bombshells) (DC Comics)

Jewish superheroes. But it's kind of weird believeing in a god when you fight real demigods on a regular basis, so adding religion to the characters are a bit JK Rowling. It doesn't add anything to these characters except for Magneto which was in a concentration camp in his youth.
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#8

Post by OldAle1 »

The vast majority of those were created - or "outed" as Jews - in the last 30-40 year though, I believe. And none of them is a character on the fame level of Batman, Superman or Spider-Man. Magneto is a good call though - and the fact that his origin is involved in the Holocaust is significant. Green Lantern is of course a major character - but, like Iron Man and some others, he can basically be anybody, and Hal Jordan was only one of many different Green Lanterns over the years.

The larger point is really that when the most significant characters were created - by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Simon, Jerry Siegel, Joe Schuster, etc - only white males that are at least perceived as Christian or Aryan, and the VERY occasional white female - could be protagonists in these comics, just as in the world of American film only white men - and rarely obviously Jewish men - could be the "heroes". Had it been OK for the characters to be Jewish, or Black, or any other minority, in 1938, or even in 1963, perhaps they would have been created that way in the first place. But they wouldn't sell comics, and the guys in charge of those companies were in business to make money from mostly people who wanted to see white men as the heroes.
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#9

Post by albajos »

As I said. I don't see how religion matters. They fight gods on a regular basis. They basically have more important stuff to think about. That's why they didn't have a religion in the 60s.

Peter Parker is popular because basically anyone can become Spider-Man, and he was in or close to the age group of the readers. Adding a religion would just alienating a big part of the readers from that illusion.
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#10

Post by xianjiro »

OldAle1 wrote: June 28th, 2019, 8:51 pm The question I would always ask in such circumstances is: how important is the character's race/gender/sexual orientation/nationality/etc to the story/narrative that is being told? My favorite argument along these lines was on the late great IMDb forums years ago, when people were going off about Bond - many, perhaps most vehemently against the idea that Bond should be anything but a white man in his 30s. One of the people I most respected (and a British guy to boot, and a huge Bond fan) put it this way: what is the most important aspect of Bond in this era? It's his Britishness, of course. If you're making a Bond film set in 1955, and you want it at all "realistic", then Bond had better be a white male, and if he's not you're going to have to work very hard to convince the audience that it isn't a silly PC stunt. If on the other hand your Bond is set in the Britain of 2020 - why not have Jane Bond, or Gay Bond, or Black Bond? But keep him/her/they BRITISH because that's where the crux of the character's personality lies.

And I think you can apply similar attitudes elsewhere. Wonder Woman has to be female - apart from the name, her femininity is central to the character. Batman should be rich, that's central to the character, but otherwise, why not black, or female, or gay? Doctor Who as stated is an obvious one - the character can look like anybody, and be anybody, except always The Doctor. Sherlock Holmes is like Bond - if you set him in 1890, he probably ought to be a white man, but now? Who cares?

Most of the Keep My Superheroes Pure assholes forget one important thing: nearly every major Marvel & DC superhero was created by Jews - and none of the characters AFAIK were created as Jewish, and probably almost none of them have ever been re-booted as Jews. But these crybabies I'm sure would go off on WB if they dared to present a Batman whose real name was Robert Kahn* and who took time off from his nightly prowls for Passover ever year.

*Given name of Bob Kane, co-creator of the character with Bill (Milton) Finger, also Jewish.
really interesting addition to the discussion - thanks!

One question: so, could a trans actor play Wonder Woman - and for the sake of this discussion, let's say she's post op and fully presents as female. Should she have a chance? (I can see arguments on both sides of this one.)
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#11

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Hmm, so was Superman robbed of his bar mitzvah on Krypton?
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#12

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xianjiro wrote: June 28th, 2019, 10:54 pm

One question: so, could a trans actor play Wonder Woman - and for the sake of this discussion, let's say she's post op and fully presents as female. Should she have a chance? (I can see arguments on both sides of this one.)
I think that's a fantastic idea and could probably work within the framework of the character mythology without too many radical changes.

Of course, even if such casting were feasible, we'd still have to contend with the basic dullness and conservatism of comic book plotting and action, and frankly I am not one of those people who believes that we need more Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel or Black Panther type films to push forward the causes of minorities, so much as we need a whole paradigm shift that gets people to start looking for something more than fantasy in their entertainment to begin with. But then again I'm not part of any discriminated-against minority group, unless you want to count atheists, so perhaps I underrate how important these things are.
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#13

Post by maxwelldeux »

xianjiro wrote: June 28th, 2019, 10:54 pm One question: so, could a trans actor play Wonder Woman - and for the sake of this discussion, let's say she's post op and fully presents as female. Should she have a chance? (I can see arguments on both sides of this one.)
I mean, of course - essentially, we have a woman playing Wonder Woman. There are enough important elements to the character that the actor's personal history really doesn't crack the top 10 most important things I'd look for in casting.

Semi-related question: Casting for Biopics, especially living/recently deceased people. How "authentic" should that casting me?

This is the question about which I've been hemming and hawing in my head all day. When I watch these sorts of films, my biggest priority is that the actor should look like the subject of the biopic as close as possible (given that the person is a public enough figure) - when I get that, I can get lost in the film. When the actor looks too different, it's just a constant reminder that it's not the person and distracts from the film. Like MLK in Selma was fantastic casting - he looked almost exactly like MLK from the pictures of and video I've seen. Sean Penn in Milk looks a hell of a lot like Harvey Milk (I've not seen the picture), but I can't help but wonder if a gay actor might have brought more depth to the role. Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in I'm Not There was an interesting choice (again, haven't seen it). Jesse Eisenberg was great in The Social Network, and while I enjoyed the film, there was no point where I got lost in it; he didn't look enough like Zuckerberg.
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#14

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I had no idea how Zuckerberg looked when the Social Network was released.
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#15

Post by matthewscott8 »

I'd prefer to see more diverse storytelling, then you get a more diverse group of people involved in acting. The most pernicious thing about casting is you almost always only use highly physically attractive people, and in media jn general, which ends up creating a corrosive cult of beauty. Ugly people are more likely to be casted as unlikeable characters.

Rather than black Hamlet you can film Othello, or a biopic of Alexandre Dumas Pere. Or Hamlet in the Ivory Coast with an all black cast.

Often when people are simply playing around with casting it's because their productions are struggling with lack of inspiration. And its part of the omnipresent cash in on politically correct views, many would be compelled to go watch black James Bond even if they hate action movies, it's virtue signalling. Having used that example, I do actually think Idris Elba would be a good Bond, as the franchise is clearly set in the modern day in the latest installments. Although equally they could put a bullet in the franchise as it's outdated and absurd (in a bad way). They tried to turn it into Bourne, also shit, and have these cross episode story arcs that are witless and too boring to bother to follow.
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#16

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id want new bond to be trans asian pansexual woman directed by michale haneke
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#17

Post by matthewscott8 »

nimimerkillinen wrote: June 29th, 2019, 1:43 pm id want new bond to be trans asian pansexual woman directed by michale haneke
With The Rock as Miss Moneypenny. Probably would be a better watch.
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#18

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I'm going to hit that Rock bottom
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#19

Post by nimimerkillinen »

matthewscott8 wrote: June 29th, 2019, 1:49 pm
nimimerkillinen wrote: June 29th, 2019, 1:43 pm id want new bond to be trans asian pansexual woman directed by michale haneke
With The Rock as Miss Moneypenny. Probably would be a better watch.
and and arcturian alien as Q
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#20

Post by xianjiro »

So, anyone else watch Bridgerton?
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