Harvey Weinstein Talks 'Intouchables' Remake; Leaning Towards Casting Latino In Omar Sy's Role

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by Tambay A. Obenson
July 14, 2012 12:10 PM
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I gotta say that despite everything I hear and read about Harvey Weinstein, and my own first (and only) time meeting him in person several years ago, I almost always enjoy listening to him in conversation - specifically in interviews.

He's so much a fanboy, and his love, passion (and knowledge) of cinema is infectious and endearing.

But that's not what this post is about :)

In the below interview with Elvis Mitchell, they talk film (what else), specifically The Intouchables, which is The Weinstein Company's latest international hit - the multiple award-winning feel good French blockbuster that stars our man Omar Sy

During the conversation, the remake of the film that Harvey is already developing, came up, and Mitchell asked what the approach would be with regards to Omar Sy's character (who's Senegalese), versus the real life man he played in the film, who is Algerian, and the conversation delves into matters of immigration as experienced in France, compared to the USA, and how all that will factor into the USA remake.

Here's that segment of their conversation:

HARVEY: "Originally, the intention was to have a black actor do it, but you talk about immigration, and the whole Latino thing that's happening right now, it's opened up our eyes, and obviously there's an explosion of thought."

He then goes on to talk about the unreliability of the Republicans on the immigration issue here in the USA, before Elvis jumps back in with this:

ELVIS: "In that way it could be a political film... the president decided to grant special status to people who live in this country... it felt like it could be a way into the story that you never thought about."

And Harvey agrees with Mitchell on that, further talking about what he felt was a misunderstanding we here in the USA have had about the French film, essentially that we don't get it, and we're looking at it through American eyes, if you will, and losing the message of the film in the process - one that's been embraced not only in France, but all over the world.

If you read our interview with Omar Cy (HERE) along with interviews we've posted with the filmmakers of The Intouchables, I think you'll see a similar kind of response. On one hand I actually sympathize with people like Omar Sy who make films in their native countries (France in this case), the films travel (to the USA notably) and the actors are hit with an unexpected range of questions about race, and representation, history, identity, etc, that they didn't have to address in their home countries, where there's maybe a different understanding altogether. But that's a post for another time that I'm actually pondering and plan to put together with some help.

A lot to consider in all this, and a closer look is warranted, but let's see how Harvey runs with this remake; as noted in previous posts, the real-life story the film is based on, the character played by Omar Sy, Abdel Sellou, is Algerian in real life. But they went with the Senegalese Sy. And there was question of whether the actor chosen to play the role in the American remake may not be African American/African.

Omar Sy himself said that the Stateside equivalent of the relationship between the countries that two men in the original film/real life are from, would be akin to the relationship between the USA and Mexico; so the character he plays in the original film should really be played by a Mexican actor in the Hollywood/Weinstein Company remake - if they wanted to be 100% authentic as Omar Sy described.

So leaning towards casting a Latino actor instead of an African American actor as previously believed, shouldn't be all that difficult to understand.

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the ongoing debate about the term "Latino," and its convenient (some would say lazy) use (often interchangeably with "Hispanic") as an umbrella label to describe all Spanish-speaking people in America, even though no Latino state exists, as there are many different national identities (as well as shades of skin color and heritage) that exist under that umbrella term.

There are after all *Black Latinos.*

But that's also another discussion for another post.

It was reported about a month ago, that Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock and Idris Elba were all on the short list of actors to play the lead role in director Paul Feig's remake. None of that was confirmed by Harvey, however. So we can't say with certainty which way he's leaning, and if those actors mentioned really are/were in the running. 

He did say in the interview that they originally planned to cast an black (African American) actor, and have since considered NOT doing so, therefore, maybe Foxx, Rock and Elba were indeed in the running. 

And what if Idris Elba, who's British, was cast in the role? How does that alter the story's immigration theme?

Let's wait and see how this all shakes out. But at least, now you know, so when the cast is finally announced, you shouldn't be surprised by whichever way they go with the part. 

Listen to the 28-minute conversation between Harvey and Elvis below:

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5 Comments

  • Mark | July 16, 2012 11:04 AMReply

    See! All that complaining has just lost a brother a great role!

    P.S.

    Harvey said Latino....Maybe Laz Alonzo...? LOL

  • Geneva Girl | July 14, 2012 11:08 PMReply

    I called that one months ago. The man on whom the character was based was north African, but portrayed by a sub-Saharan African. Changing the character's race again is par for the course and not worth getting your knickers in a knot.

  • kai | July 14, 2012 1:19 PMReply

    interesting....but why is it only Omar sy's character that is racially interchangeable?
    why not the white actor's character too?

  • Bani Productions | July 15, 2012 10:31 AM

    Aaaah! Food for thought

  • CJ | July 14, 2012 12:17 PMReply

    Not going to have the same effect. Just as casting an algerian wouldn't have had the same effect in the original. Once you go black....

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