Another thing Broadway does better than Hollywood.
One of our sister industry’s biggest releases this December is the Old Testament inspired Exodus: Gods and Kings, starring the very white Christian “I didn’t scream at any cameramen this time” Bale as Moses (does anyone see the irony in Moses being played by a guy whose first name is Christian?) . . . and the even whiter Joel Edgerton as the Egyptian (?) Pharaoh, Ramses II.
As this interesting article from the Associated Press begins, “Put ‘ancient Egyptian people’ into a Google image search and none of the resulting photos resemble Christian Bale or Joel Edgerton.”
When pressed about why he didn’t hire actors that were more ethnically appropriate, Director Ridley Scott said that he never would have been able to get the movie made if “my lead actor is Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such.”
I’m going to try and cut Rid some slack and ignore the obvious insensitivity of his comment, because I think it came from his own frustration of not being able to hire the best people for the job, both in terms of talent, and in terms of making sure his work is more historically accurate.
It’s ironic, isn’t it . . . that film can make such obviously inaccurate choices, when it, by nature, is an ultra realistic art form. If a film wants to show a car driving down the street, it shows a car driving down the street. In the theater, that has to be shown theatrically, or not shown at all. Right? Film depends on realism. Yet it can make a choice like the stars of Exodus, despite spending so much money on special effects and scenic design to make every other detail look so perfectly from the era.
It’s just funny to me. I mean, I get it. But still . . . it’s counter-intuitive, which is why big budget studio movies get the rep they do.
In the theater, we not only strive to make more authentic choices, but we can even make non-traditional choices that can make our pieces even richer. (Ever look at a piece of art from five feet away – and then fifteen feet away? That’s what different casting can do.)
And when we do stray outside these lines we get spanked (remember the realistic musical Miss Saigon and the backlash the show got for casting Jonathan Pryce as the Engineer?).
I’m not saying we do the right thing all the time. But we’re making more better choices than our sister industry on the other coast, and that’s something I’m proud of.
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