Regarding debating diversity at the Oscars: for my scripts, not all casting can work if race-blind

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There has been some “whining” about the supposed lack of racial diversity in Oscar nominations, as in this Washington Post Style article by Lonnae O’Neal, “Only role reversals will end all-white Oscars lists” — online, it’s “Maybe Hollywood’s not racist; it just has a processing disorder”.

Later MLK Day, in fact, Spike Lee (and maybe others) announced boycotting the Oscars under the “Oscars so White” (#Oscarsowhite) hashtag on twitter.

My own experience at the movies (and with television mini-series) is that I see plenty of black actors in favorable roles — especially as police detectives, politicians (especially presidents), athletes, and physicians.  No one would quarrel with Viola Davis’s effectivness as a  law professor in “How to Get Away with Murder“.  It would have been well to nominate Will Smith for his role in “Concussion“, no argument there. I recall Morgan Freeman’s role in David Fincher’s “Se7en” (1995) alongside Brad Pitt  (remember the “chest shaving” scene before they both wear a wire for the climax).  And, by the way remember the climax, “What’s in the box?” (maybe an inspiration for Richard Kelly’s “The Box”), with Kevin Spacey as the satanic villain.

There is a problem, however, in my own mind, with some scripts.  Suppose I get my novel “Angel’s Brother” published and it gets interest, or I get some traction for my “Do Ask, Do Tell: Epiphany” screenplay.

In both of these, it’s important that some of the leading characters be attractive young white males, for what I have presented as “gay sexual tension” (however stereotyped and potentially prejudicial) to work.  I wonder if films like “Judas Kiss” or “The Dark Place” could have worked with African-American young actors in at least one leading role, for the same reason.

“Epiphany” particularly has some supporting characters in the “ashram” scenes where the characters can be cast in a race-blind way.  And, for example, in “Angel’s Brother”, the leading characters (Randy, about 40 and Sal, about 21) are conceived as white, the CIA chief could very well be cast as African American (Morgan Freeman would be perfect).

Don’t forget, by the way, that Morgan Freeman has been trying to produce “Rendezvous with Rama”.

(Published: Monday, January 18, 2015, 10:45 AM EDT)

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