Lee Daniels, Hugh Jackman Teaming To Tackle MLK Assassination Conspiracy Theories In 'Orders To Kill'

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by Tambay A. Obenson
July 31, 2012 9:57 PM
56 Comments
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This is interesting... So Lee Daniels apparently couldn't get his original MLK project off the ground (titled Selma, which had David Oyelowo starring), and has switched gears, still staying on the MLK course, but this time teaming with Hugh Jackman (who was also attached to Selma), to take on Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in a new film that will reportedly explore an "unconventional view of King's murder."

To be titled Orders To Kill, the film will tell an alternative version of the MLK shooting, according to the LA Times, with Daniels directing of course, and Jackman starring.

The film will tell the story of William Pepper (Jackman), a controversial attorney and activist who for decades has argued that convicted killer James Earl Ray, who recanted his confession and died arguing his innocence, didn't shoot MLK. The picture will follow Pepper over the years as he wages a one-man campaign, interviewing witnesses and building support for his theory that other interests, including those from the U.S. government, were behind the 1968 Memphis killing. (In a nutshell, Pepper, who is still alive, argues that government interests wanted King dead because of his opposition to the Vietnam War.)

The film will be based on William Pepper's book of the same name, which has already been adapted to screenplay format, and is apparently ready to be shot, with Millennium Films producing and finance the film, which is currently being shopped around to distributors in Hollywood.

Unlike Daniels' Selma (which was reportedly held up because family and close friends of the King estate didn't approve of the project, which would have highlighted some of King's vices), this project is said to have the support of Martin Luther King Jr.'s son Dexter King, who himself believes Pepper's story about who was really behind his father's murder.

Further...

A 1999 wrongful-death lawsuit against a man and unknown co-conspirators filed by the Kings and argued by Pepper found in favor of the plaintiff. The trial will be the climactic section of the film, according to the person familiar with the project.

Since Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, assassination, his murder has been fodder for endless conspiracy theories that rival those of JFK's assassination (which Oliver Stone tackled in his film 2 decades ago).

From King's son Dexter meeting with James Earl Ray in prison in 1997, professing his belief in Ray's innocence, to then Attorney General Janet Reno's reopening an investigation into the assassination in 1998, to a jury awarding the King family a symbolic $100 in a wrongful death suit a year later - all have helped keep alternate theories of MLK's death alive.

James Earl Ray maintained his innocence until he died in prison in 1998.

Lee Daniels has his hands full here. I won't be surprised if certain forces ensure that this project is never fully realized (to add to the already existing conspiracy theories). 

But this could be a good one, depending on execution. Let's see how things develop...

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56 Comments

  • Suzanne | August 2, 2012 1:08 AMReply

    @ BLUTOPAZ - Now, let me clarify what I mean by 'less artists going into the arts but more business minded people transferring into the arts.' You do, of course, need to have an arts background and/or strong interest. That's a given. I went to an Ivy League school so liberal arts was pretty much at the core. Those who majored in the arts while in college were still equipped to take jobs in the economics field since pretty much a little of every subject was a requirement. Goldman Sachs and Barclays Capital were pretty much taking anyone with the Ivy or Tier 1 school stamp on the resume. As a saftey net upon graduation, my fellow classmate artists still took jobs in investment banking. I know people who were drama majors or government majors (like myself) who still were able to get a job on Wall Street. They stayed at those companies and made some bucks before making the transition. It wasn't just bonuses from work that insulated them. They all invested wisely including buying some shares in a hotel in Houston. (Everyone knows that Houston is a big convention hub so they made a substantial amount of money in two years with a small investment.) All of these efforts allowed these aspiring thespians to have a financial cushion in place, which is something most artists don't have. That's why I believe people should go make money in other lucrative fields and then come back to their first love of the arts. I say business minded folks are needed more because you approach things from a different perspective plus the contacts you acquire along the way in corporate America could prove to be beneficial. Your average 22 year old film grad doesn't have those resources, but has to depend on a callback or be at the mercy of a casting director. Now, things change when you have a financial cushion and can afford to put up some of the money for your own projects or call a former co-worker to make a donation or investment. If you don't believe me, this is how Dee Rees and Nekisa Cooper got it done. They were execs at Colgate-Palmolive, made a little money and some contacts before making the switch to entertainment and now, Pariah, was received well by the press. Yes, they had the arts education in place, but they were still smart in getting a job in another lucrative field, which later helped. (Brand managers can make any easy six figures so you can put a little a way for a rainy day.) The brand management skills they acquired only helped them when pitching the project and soliciting donations....By the way, my comment about the MBA was more of an illustration. LOL! I was trying to say working on Wall Street will reap the kind of money in 2-4 years to cover an MBA education or do what your heart desires like indie film producing.

  • BluTopaz | August 2, 2012 11:14 AM

    @ Just Saying--Word. And in addition to the cut throat nature you mentioned just to keep your j-o-b at some of the big banks, I had the shock of being told once that associates were required to sign paperwork confirming that we were not involved in any outside career activities. No side gigs, even unpaid intern work was frowned upon and could result in immediate termination. Hence, hiding my laptop under my desk. At the time I had just entered a business plan competition to learn how to write a business model, thinking i'm all corporate now and knew what i was doing with a spreadsheet. Basically i learned my original plan for a video production company sucked, so I am revising it. But the VP who "crunched the numbers" for me made a good point when I felt like crying. He advised me to use my connections at the bank for this type of assistance. So for me instead of donated money, I appreciate the brain power of professionals I work with. There is a major disconnect with many of us right side of the brain folks and business, I'll admit that. We have all read where artists in different fields who were brilliant, but made bad business decisions. But yeah, becoming a Wall St. hotshot, then switching careers to film auteur ain't the move, either-lol!

  • JustSaying | August 2, 2012 10:29 AM

    I know a few people that work on wall street and in corporate america in general and believe me, private firms are NOTHING compared to the big guns. It's straight CUT THROAT. You are working more to keep your job than anything else... So you can "network" but I don't know many people getting donations from people in this field. Yes they may have money, but many are not giving you what they bust their behind for. It's a culture to make money and KEEP your money....essentially you have to locate people who are interested in helping to make your MOVIES....and how will you determine that **inconspicuously** while staying afloat in asset management?!? You're living in a dream world. You have better luck researching people in high ranks that have expressed interest in filmmaking or the arts or contact them directly to find out rather than getting a job in corporate America just to make these contacts.... oh and when you're of color, it gets so much more intense lol.

  • Suzanne | August 2, 2012 12:27 AMReply

    @ BLUTOPAZ and @JUSTSAYING - FYI - I know plenty about these industries. I started off in entertainment marketing working at HBO and then moving into sports and made a switch to finance a few years ago. I currently serve as Vice President at a private equity firm. Yes, I work long hours, but I paid my dues already to the point where I have some flexibility now with my employer. I can still freelance. When I say freelance, I'm not talking about working weekly on side gigs. It's too much. I'm talking about taking on quarterly or annual projects like award shows and live specials. Awards season is the best time to network. I make sure to keep my calendar clear of extra activities outside of my main employer around February and early March so that I am available to work Oscar and BAFTA festivities. Those contacts I developed from the Oscars have helped me today and I'm proud to say that a film that I co-produced will be debuting on the festival circuit later this year and another is being aimed for Cannes 2013. To say it's impossible is wrong. It's up to you to decide what your priorities are. I don't do clubs and am not much of a partyer (over it) so cutting people out of my life momentarily who had no direct contribution to my success was easy. So yes, going into hermit mode aimed with a purpose will force you to keep your eyes on the prize. I did just that. I don't have children so sky is the limit. I have no responsibilities to tie me down.

  • Justsaying | August 2, 2012 10:15 AM

    You said you started off in entertainment, not " WALL STREET. GO TO EXXON. GO INTO LAW & MEDICINE." Big difference my friend. Also, you're talking about networking. yada yada yada... Someone can work the Oscars and BAFTA without working for wall street....lol Many people debut their films at festivals and *AIM* for cannes... what are you proving? Also I think it's interesting that you are a time to time co-producer.... Your outline doesn't work very much for someone who wants to be PROLIFIC in the craft of directing, acting, cinematography, and below the line positions. Sometimes you just have to go DO IT continuously... LIKE Oprah, Tyler Perry, and Russell Simmons. They didn't go work on wall street or become a lawyer just to do what they are doing now. You have it twisted. I'm glad you're able to do what you do... but what you described in your previous post is not what you're doing right now...lol Good one.

  • BluTopaz | August 1, 2012 1:00 PMReply

    I think too many of us fall for the 'it's just a white savior trope" trope. Pepper implicates some of the most powerful institutions in this country, inc. FBI, CIA, and the mafia. That is epic storytelling if done right. Yeah it's been done before but this is concerning our most treasured hero. And as Tambay included above, King's own son believes Ray was innocent based on Pepper's research. That resonates a lot with me personally, since we don't hear much from the King children about this topic. I have no idea the original direction Daniels was going with Oyelowo in the lead, but imo we should not automatically write off a possibly compelling story just because of the White lead.

  • ALM | August 1, 2012 2:02 PM

    @BluTopaz: There's nothing wrong with telling the James Earl Ray story, especially if some of the members of the King family believe in his innocence. The problem is that the MLK story centered on MLK should be told first. The problem is even more acute when the same director is attached to two high profile films about the same topic, yet the one focusing on the Caucasian lawyer is the one that gets greenlit. I'm not buying the "King family held up production" as the only reason that the other film didn't get made. There is more to this. Hollywood picks and chooses to do what they want to do.

  • david | August 1, 2012 1:31 AMReply

    I'm very surprised nobody commented on this one. I for one can't wait to see it...

  • Miles Ellison | July 31, 2012 11:42 PMReply

    Yet another film where an iconic black figure is merely background for the story of a white nobody. This is getting old.

  • AccidentalVisitor | July 31, 2012 11:42 PMReply

    Is this the MLK version of Oliver Stone's JFK? Brilliant. Not.

  • ALM | July 31, 2012 11:06 PMReply

    So the MLK movie can only be greenlit if the main character is a Caucasian lawyer? That's a true shame. The MLK character will probably get 2 minutes of screen time. SMH

  • PRISS | July 31, 2012 10:21 PMReply

    Mississippi Burning, The Help, Beasts of the Southern Wild, this one - more of us our history through the white man's eye. Can't wait!

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 3, 2012 8:43 PM

    YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE TO WATER...GLAD WE'VE DECIDED TO STOP MAKING THINGS UP.

  • Akimbo | August 3, 2012 11:42 AM

    Well, damn.

  • justsaying | August 3, 2012 10:57 AM

    I actually found an article or two just now where he says he auditioned 4,000 girls**. So this confirms that they made the decision for Hushpuppy to be a girl BEFOREHAND. I'm glad I found this because I wasn't going to go off of those interviews where it is ambiguous. I find it strange that they rarely use "girl"...The proof would have been evident if he said he auditioned all girls instead of *kids* or *children* in the interviews below...So I was indeed wrong about that part. When I'm wrong I WILL admit it, but only with undisputed PROOF! I still think that the character was underdeveloped. And now I'm even more annoyed that they had more time to make it work and still produced that...Shame..

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 3, 2012 1:09 AM

    WOMP. QUIBBLE ALL YOU WANT; WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT THEY CHANGED THE GENDER AFTER HER AUDITION? STILL WRONG, FOOL.

  • justsaying | August 3, 2012 12:26 AM

    No ...lol you're killing me here.. They were "adapting" the play during the casting process too. They were rewriting and adapting even as the cast was set! And the writer clearly says she was watching the auditions and trying to make the story work in one of the interviews posted below. So it is clear that THIS DECISION COULD and I HIGHLY THINK IT WAS was made during casting NOT BEFORE. Direct from an interview Question: Did the story change a lot from when you first concepted it? Director: Massively. We completely rewrote the film, but that’s sort of by design. As we find places, we write them into the film. We rewrote the geography based on finding this road and this town at the end of it that didn’t exist until I stumbled upon that road and that place, and totally rewrote the film to fit it. I rewrote the flooded town when I found that stretch of houses with the water going past them. I rewrote the characters when I found Mr. Henry and Quvenzhané. Part of the design is that we’re adapting to the actual tangible elements that are going to express the story on screen. So you keep the heart and themes and structure and basic story intact, but the details and the way that things express themselves and the inner workings transform themselves as you find the stuff. **You have no direct proof that the decision was made before the casting process began because they were constantly writing. And she even says they tried to be flexible with Hushpuppy which probably meant it wasn't set in stone** NOPE NOT CUTTING IT. Au Revoir

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 3, 2012 12:14 AM

    NOPE. "But then Benh convinced you to make Hushpuppy a girl while you guys were adapting the play into a screenplay, right? Yeah, and I was like, “Okay – I can do this now." SO THE CHANGE HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH Q'S AUDITION.

  • justsaying | August 3, 2012 12:07 AM

    LMAO NO. NO. NO. This is what I mean by it VARIES. He decided to make the character 6 years old after he heard the lines DURING the casting process...lol The person ASKING the question ASSUMES it was originally written for a 6 year old girl** from watching the film but never do they say it was adapted a script for an 11 year old GIRL!!! Notice how he refers to it as a character and omits feminine pronouns until the end. ALSO it is very important that you realize that my quotes and your quotes mirror each other except my quote includes 11 year old boy while yours use "character"...but never GIRL! Sorry...

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 2, 2012 11:39 PM

    NOTICE HOW I DIDN'T NEED TO TAKE ANY QUOTES OUT OF CONTEXT? I THINK WE CAN AGREE NOW THAT YOU'RE WRONG, ESPECIALLY ABOUT THEM CHANGING THE GENDER AFTER SEEING THE LITTLE GIRL'S AUDITION.

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 2, 2012 11:30 PM

    FROM : http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=91670 CS: When you were writing the screenplay with the main character being a 6-year-old girl, did you realize that you'd have to find a young girl to pull off everything you wrote for this character?
    Zeitlin: Well, we wrote her older for that reason. I think originally she was 11.
    Alibar: I think we knew pretty early on that we had to be flexible to whomever the best Hushpuppy was.
    Zeitlin: But we also sort of realized that for the perspective of the film, at 11 the character is a little daft. You have an 11-year-old who's like "My Daddy could have turned into this spoon." There's something wrong with that kind for a six-year-old who ends up having this incredibly vibrant mind. It was sort of in the interest of trying to take that character from being a bit daft to being this wise woman at her age sank in the script. For the producers especially, it was this kind of horrifying thing when I came in and said, "I think this character is six, she's not 11." We sort of go into abysses and impossible challenges like that fairly regularly so it wasn't totally out of the blue.    FROM: http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2012/07/13/lucy-alibar-talks-adapting-her-play-into-beasts-of-the-southern-wild/
    But then Benh convinced you to make Hushpuppy a girl while you guys were adapting the play into a screenplay, right?

    Yeah, and I was like, “Okay – I can do this now.” And sometimes it was really hard. There were days when we were shooting where I just had to walk away, I couldn’t do it. There were days when Nazie’s [Quvenzhane Wallis, the actress who plays Hushpuppy] mom just had to rub my back, it was just so hard to watch. But it’s also been incredible … this makes the experience worth it.

  • justsaying | August 2, 2012 11:22 PM

    No, sorry pal. The second post was an interview. Question and direct response. Maybe you should reread the interview I posted. And like I said... the responses VARY!! Looked at Akimbo's too. Now show me the proof that this was adapted for screen to be an eleven year old girl... I won't even throw race in there. Waiting...

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 2, 2012 11:13 PM

    BECAUSE YOU CHOSE AN ARTICLE THAT WAS NOT A DIRECT INTERVIEW WITH THE CREATORS. THE LACK OF QUOTATION MARKS AROUND THE SEQUENCE OF EVENTS SHOULD TELL YOU THAT THE JOURNALIST WAS INTERPRETING/CONDENSING THE PROCESS. DID YOU READ THE ONES AKIMB LINKED? DON'T THINK YOU DID. ANYTHING TO BE RIGHT, RIGHT?

  • justsaying | August 2, 2012 11:02 PM

    @Comment Police, How come they don't talk about their idea to change it to a Black girl early on in the screenwriting process?? And how does it go from 11 year old BOY to 6 year old CHILD.... why not 6 year old GIRL? Her gender was undermined in this case...You can't give me proof that the screenplay was adapted for a 11 year old girl before they started casting. If you can, my points will be null and void. Please show me proof that it was adapted to become an 11 year old girl and they decided to just bump it down to 6 years old and THEN tailor it.

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 2, 2012 10:51 PM

    YES, YOU ARE. HUSHPUPPY WAS ALREADY A GIRL BEFORE THE PART WAS CAST. THEY REWROTE THE CHARACTER TO TAILOR IT TO THE ACTRESS, NOT TO HER SEX. THIS IS AN EXAMPLE OF MISUSING & ABUSING QUOTES. ANOTHER HIGH CRIME.

  • Justsaying | August 2, 2012 10:46 PM

    "I rewrote the characters when I found Mr. Henry and Quvenzhané" That's in the second interview I posted..... Am I misreading here?

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 2, 2012 10:37 PM

    NAW, YOU SAID: "Many are aware that the play and film's orginal protagonist was a white boy and the director was blown away by our leading young lady and decided to do a switcheroo." I PAID ATTENTION, YOU MADE UP WHAT YOU WANTED TO BELIEVE & PASSED IT OFF AS FACT TO WIN AN INTERNET DEBATE. HIGH CRIME.

  • justsaying | August 2, 2012 10:28 PM

    Lol and yes I said : We really have a black girl undertaking a role that portrays a white boy because I don't feel like that really rewrote a character for Quvenzhané Wallis so I reverted to what the role initially was when they begin adapting it which was for a 11 year old white boy. Now that is different from saying the character seemed like it was a white boy based on characteristics. Pay attention. I'm relying on the facts of it initially being a role portraying a white boy and not going through a full transformation to become a developed Hushpuppy. Akimbo, I can't see anything white or unblack either..lol cause I don't know what that looks like and never will. But I do see a character that could have been developed better. Thanks for the convo!

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 2, 2012 10:22 PM

    NEITHER OF THOSE ARTICLES SAY THAT THE ROLE WAS CHANGED FROM BOY TO GIRL BECAUSE OF Q OR THAT THE CHARACTER WAS FIRST WRITTEN AS A BOY. CONCEIVED =/= WRITTEN. STILL WRONG.

  • justsaying | August 2, 2012 10:08 PM

    Interview: http://www.trentonian.com/article/20120713/ENTERTAINMENT01/120719875/-beasts-of-the-southern-wild-defies-odds-in-becoming-sensation&pager=2 EXCERPT---> It wasn’t initially apparent that the film’s voice would be that of little Hushpuppy. The character was at first conceived as an 11-year-old boy. During the casting and auditioning process, they had “a horrifying revelation” that it wouldn’t work. A child of 11 speaking lines like “In a million years, when kids go to school, they’re gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy” would sound “daft,” Zeitlin said. “When a 6-year-old said it, it resonated in the right way,” combining a wise woman’s perspective on the world with childish innocence. ANOTHER INTERVIEW Interview: http://spinningplatters.com/2012/07/10/spinning-platters-interview-benh-zeitlin-on-beasts-of-the-southern-wild-2/ EXCERPT: Did the story change a lot from when you first concepted it? Massively. We completely rewrote the film, but that’s sort of by design. As we find places, we write them into the film. We rewrote the geography based on finding this road and this town at the end of it that didn’t exist until I stumbled upon that road and that place, and totally rewrote the film to fit it. I rewrote the flooded town when I found that stretch of houses with the water going past them. I rewrote the characters when I found Mr. Henry and Quvenzhané. Part of the design is that we’re adapting to the actual tangible elements that are going to express the story on screen. So you keep the heart and themes and structure and basic story intact, but the details and the way that things express themselves and the inner workings transform themselves as you find the stuff.----> MY RESPONSE: The responses vary.

  • COMMENT POLICE | August 2, 2012 10:03 PM

    JUSTSAYING SAID THESE THINGS "Many are aware that the play and film's orginal protagonist was a white boy and the director was blown away by our leading young lady and decided to do a switcheroo." WRONG "And because the director of BotSW didn't do his homework with the writer in terms of making this change in casting work for the story and all its facets - We really have a black girl undertaking a role that portrays a white boy." WRONG  "the director did not want to rewrite the story so that her father would prepare her to survive and grow up to be a **Woman**- strong tough and daring and all because the world the film takes place in doesn't facilitate this - which means that the director would have to change other things in the film....so instead of doing the actual work he skipped over this and received a pass for casting black actors." WRONG "The role was written for a white boy. That's a fact. The director was auditioning to cast someone to portray a white boy." WRONGY WRONG WRONG. YOU GOT SHUT DOWN BY THE TRUTH AND STILL TRYING TO TALK SHIT. LOL, NOT SURPRISED YOU SUDDENLY "LOST INTEREST." CUZ YOU SO VERY WRONG! @PRISS,  BEASTS IS FICTION, IT AIN'T HISTORICAL AND I DON'T HAVE A PROBLEM WITH WHITE PEOPLE CREATING GOOD PROJECTS FOR BLACKS. I GUESS CUZ I'M NOT RACIST.

  • WOW | August 2, 2012 9:24 PM

    "I don't see how I would answer that question without sounding IGNORANT. Can't honor it" ~ JustSaying. NOPE! Ain't buying it. In fact, you've repeatedly side-stepped every single issue that you -- YOURSELF -- brought to the table. Akimbo has asked you on several occasion to answer specific question on issues YOU BROUGHT TO THE FLOOR, but you've replied with porous analogies or didn't answer at all. If I am not misstaken YOU'RE the one who mentioned "We really have a black girl undertaking a role that portrays a white boy" ... but NOW you would sound ignorant if you... what? Please, your silence is speaking for you when you words tell on you.

  • Akimbo | August 2, 2012 9:14 PM

    The response is actually constant: they decided Hushpuppy would be a girl before the casting process began and the movie was a combination of ideas, not a direct adaptation of the play, which was simply about a boy coping with the loss of his father. So all that "this was meant for a white boy, they only changed it after the fact, and did little more than drop the black girl into the script" stuff is false. If you don't like the movie, that's fine, but don't try to base it on made up facts. Wasn't trying to make you come off ignorant, but since I can't see anything "white" or glaringly "un-black" about Hushpuppy, was wondering what you were seeing. Dah, well. Good luck with that.

  • justsaying | August 2, 2012 8:55 PM

    @Akimbo. Thanks, I've read interviews already...and the responses varies ...The movie was adapted from a play with an 11 year boy as the lead...Now the real question is...how much work did the writer and the director put in to make it work for this casting choice? And I know the main writer was a woman - doesn't guarantee she will do the role justice. If I cared as much, I would read the original play to see how much tailoring she actually did... but I'm starting not to care lol. It is a nonsensical question because the question seems to imply that there are white characteristics that define a character beyond the general race category and that isn't so no more than I could define someone's character as having black characteristics or asian characteristics beyond race. Characteristics can not be appropriated to characteristics...if that makes sense. You can't attribute smart to asian or athletic to black etc. I don't see how I would answer that question without sounding IGNORANT. Can't honor it. The original character most likely had more development and after the change in direction, I think the assumption was made that the character would be transferrable but it just looks empty. And just because someone says they tailored a role, doesn't mean they went all out. These are press interviews. The real proof is on the screen. :) Off this. Peace

  • Akimbo | August 2, 2012 8:12 PM

    Please just read a single interview ( http://www.blackbookmag.com/movies/lucy-alibar-on-adapting-her-stage-play-into-beasts-of-the-southern-wild-1.50249 , http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2012/07/13/lucy-alibar-talks-adapting-her-play-into-beasts-of-the-southern-wild/ , http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=91670 ) so you can relieve yourself of the notion that the MOVIE was written with a little boy in mind; you're really letting that piece of "inside information" color everything you say about the film. Please also note that the screenwriter (a woman) tailored the role to better suit Quvenzhané, a black girl. Asking what about the character of Hushpuppy seems "white" to you isn't a nonsensical question at all; you just won't answer it and that's fine.

  • justsaying | August 2, 2012 7:44 PM

    @Akimbo, I'm describing what I saw. I'm not deeming it a failure. I'm not even measuring it in that manner. I think its interesting that you are so sure of Wink being mentally unstable. Sorry, but that's an opinion. The role was written for a white boy. That's a fact. The director was auditioning to cast someone to portray a white boy. The play was written with a white father and son. I won't honor the request because that question doesn't make sense. She went to an audition searching for someone to portray a white boy. And as I said before, the director didn't do much to rework this change into the story. Actually you said "instead of assuming" and I said I'm sorry that came to your mind...because it did cross your mind enough for you to say you're not going to assume. So I had to make that clear and set the record straight for myself. I don't agree that prepubescent children of both sexes behave the same way outside of expectations we place upon them. I think the minute someone is born they begin to react to the world - and these differences (noticed or not) shape each and everyone one of them very early and differently. And that's what I meant by doing some homework and trying to create a character. Just to be clear, I think the director was lazy or maybe a punk is a better word in not reshaping the father's want to raise her to be a **strong woman** and not a strong man as well as other things within the world once he made this casting decision. I don't have anything against the actress, I just wondered what did she present at the audition that would make him want to do this switcheroo including race and gender. I think there is more to his decision than he revealed to the press etc. But that's just me.

  • Akimbo | August 2, 2012 2:28 PM

    Whoa. You said this "And because the director of BotSW didn't do his homework with the writer in terms of making this change in casting work for the story and all its facets - We really have a black girl undertaking a role that portrays a white boy." That's what I meant by failure; you saw failure there. Yes, Wink was clearly mentally unstable; we don't need a psychologist to come in and tell us that when it's evident in his behavior. Maybe you felt the characters were undeveloped because there was a lot unsaid and the film expected the audience to be able to fill in the blanks? Art is meant to be interpreted, so yes to your "making sense of it all" comment. I'm making sense, not excuses. You said that the role oh Hushpuppy was clearly meant for a white boy and I asked what felt so "white" about the character that we saw. You won't honor the request because I suspect that you have no response to that. Also, if you read what I wrote, I clearly stated that I DID NOT think you were looking for such stereotypical "black girl" behavior but wondered what would have actually made her seem black and like a girl to you. You're doing a lot of preaching about seeing other people's points of view, but you totally misread my response and colored it the way you wanted to see it. The puberty comment was about the fact that, outside of the gender expectations we place upon them, prepubescent children of both sexes behave very similarly; it wasn't anything more than that. And just to be clear, you think the director was lazy for not showing Hushpuppy grow into full-fledged womanhood? And you're mad that Wink only taught his daughter to be strong and independent, but not specifically how to be a lady/woman? And now you also have a problem with the girl cast as Hush? I don't get it; trying to, but I don't. And YES, to Bondgirl's comment. Although I didn't feel the characters were underdeveloped, film is the medium in which characters normally receive the least development; it's more about the story, ideas, and imagery.

  • justsaying | August 2, 2012 1:39 PM

    @Akimbo, What do you mean by failure? So you me to tell me a role portraying a black girl has to be one where she is of puberty to include more detail? Oh, so now the father is in fact mentally unstable? Lol he had an illness but mental instability wasn't confirmed. Is that what YOU projected onto the character to make sense of him? I guess you're letting the director's chips fall where they may and making sense of it all right? Children are incredible malleable at young ages yes, but you have to mold them from ONE thing to another. I think the fact that Hushpuppy could have been a boy or a girl CONFIRMS the fact that her character wasn't fleshed out to the T and neither were the characters that she had strong relationships with (her father) and that was the meat of the story not them silly beasts. -- I DID NOT SEEK any neck/eye rolling prissiness, hands on the hips lol sorry that is what came to your mind in trying to figure out what I was searching for. It's not about identifying what I found white about the character. That request doesn't make sense to me and I will not honor it. I'm saying that her character's development was weak and overlooked, and if you think switching gender & race and not reworking a story (that claims to be fantasy when its riffing off a fictionalize "real" world) is ok because the character is a child, then maybe thats a start to why you cannot understand my point of view. It's about not seeing a full character on screen but rather a meager substitution. Like I said before... think about all the interactions between the father and the daughter... And yes there are black girls who are tomboys - but no matter what, they will grow up to be women, and the director did not want to rewrite the story so that her father would prepare her to survive and grow up to be a **Woman**- strong tough and daring and all because the world the film takes place in doesn't facilitate this - which means that the director would have to change other things in the film....so instead of doing the actual work he skipped over this and received a pass for casting black actors. Also, @Bondgirl, I agree that character development is not required for all films to be good or validated, but it is needed in certain films/genres more than others because it may directly affect the plot ESPECIALLY in DRAMAS. And this film is a drama masked with elements of fantasy so character development was integral here. And good/seasoned actors usually add these touches when they're not in the script because the actor in a way adds to the script in performing. But this happens to be Quvenzhane's first performance. So what did he REALLY see in this girl during that audition to blow him away and convince him to make such a decision?? Gotta Run. Until later!

  • bondgirl | August 2, 2012 1:11 PM

    It is quite possible that disliking the film is simply a matter of taste. Character development is no where near required for a film to be good or validated. I know American and UK screenwriters may disagree on that, but it's true. Many movies allow the audience to determine the protag's circumstances or even motives, and won't spoon feed you. Also, remember how many nuanced performances were brought about from the ACTOR, not the screenplay or direction. It could be argued that Quvenzhane should've added those "touches", but again, we don't know what her notes were on-set. It may be a reason why someone found it dull, but to suggest the director had malintent is impetuous. Who knows if he made a bold choice NOT to give backstory, the same way McQueen did for Hunger and Shame? The subtleties of a black girl are unnecessary for a tomboy, the same way they were not required for Tatum O' Neal in Paper Moon (which she was the youngest to win an Oscar for, and her performance reminds me so much of Hushpuppy). Like you all said, you're entitled to an opinion, but I think when objectives are projected onto a filmmaker, it makes for undue resentment.

  • Akimbo | August 2, 2012 11:55 AM

    Just not seeing the failure. It'd be one thing if Hushpuppy was 14, but she was a prepubescent child, damn near a baby, being raised by a mentally unstable man who forces her to be self-sufficient and socializes her as a boy. To me, that was a choice and not an oversight. Children are incredibly malleable at young ages so whether Hush was a boy, girl, black, Asian, etc, you'd get a believably similar outcome simply because of the child's circumstances. Instead of assuming that you sought stereotypically black girl behavior like neck/eye rolling, prissiness, and hands on hips, I would love to know what you found was so white about the character. I'll grant that she was a tomboy (black ones do exist), but not really seeing the whiteness.

  • justsaying | August 2, 2012 11:12 AM

    @Akimbo, What I'm trying to communicate is that I understand @Priss sick and tired of being sick and tired feeling for film's that centralize African Americans and the obstacles they face vicariously through a white person's perspective. And because the director of BotSW didn't do his homework with the writer in terms of making this change in casting work for the story and all its facets - We really have a black girl undertaking a role that portrays a white boy. And it's the BLATANT disregard of the nuances and intricacies that the portrayal of a GIRL, a BLACK GIRL can offer to the story, that sheds light on the director. I'm saying that he didn't feel the need to rewrite the story, and that this new character's potential subjectivity along with her father's was ignored, and the film is celebrated without evaluating and discussing this concern. And that is a dangerous PRIVILEGE to have. One of the reasons why this film fits into the category Priss names above is because of the very fact of the switch of race in gender in the film. I am not generally grouping a white director directing a Black film with the same notion of the audience vicariously experiencing a story with black people at its core through a white character's perspective. Those are TWO different experiences. I am only saying I can make sense of why Beasts of the Southern Wild would be included in this list because essentially we are watching a white boy played by a black girl. Its not about doing disservice to Black people. But don't we owe it ourselves to discuss such things? And if someone is tired of seeing it happen let it be. Don't feel as if you have to feel this way as well or agree. *Remember WE ARE NOT a monolith** We will not have the same complaint list either!! And that is ok. You don't have to agree with what the person is saying, but if you engage in a conversation and you can walk away with an understanding of their perspective, you have more than what you came in with.

  • Akimbo | August 2, 2012 10:31 AM

    Got cut off, but even knowing that the child in the play was white doesn't make me think less of what was brought to screen in Beasts. It wasn't the best movie evarrrr, but it certainly did no disservice to black people. I walked away knowing who the characters were, why they did what they did, and never had the feeling that they were representative of all black people. There was no "historical whitewashing," so I don't get its inclusion on the complaint list.

  • Akimbo | August 2, 2012 10:31 AM

    Got cut off, but even knowing that the child in the play was white doesn't make me think less of what was brought to screen in Beasts. It wasn't the best movie evarrrr, but it certainly did no disservice to black people. I walked away knowing who the characters were, why they did what they did, and never had the feeling that they were representative of all black people. There was no "historical whitewashing," so I don't get its inclusion on the complaint list.

  • Akimbo | August 2, 2012 10:26 AM

    So if black people create underdeveloped characters for black people and white people create underdeveloped characters for white people, why blame what YOU see as a lack of characterization on the fact that it's a white director with black subjects, when it's something everyone is guilty of regardless of ethnicity? I know you've seen plenty terrible black movies & TV shows. And why complain about the lack of diversity on camera if ONLY black people can supposedly "do black people justice?"

  • Laura | August 2, 2012 10:19 AM

    @Justsaying. I totally agree with your critique of BotSW. I fell asleep watching the film. But my sister enjoyed it. There was no character development. It was one note. I guess as viewer we were suppose to project the development on Hush Puppy, her father and their relationship. I know it was suppose to be great film, but it was ok to me. Nice to see a young Black girl as the protagonist though.

  • Justsaying | August 2, 2012 10:02 AM

    When I first looked at Priss's list I was like hmm hmm hmm ahhh.... and I immediately understood where Priss was coming from for Beast of the Southern Wild... Many are aware that the play and film's orginal protagonist was a white boy and the director was blown away by our leading young lady and decided to do a switcheroo. But in my opinion, all he did was insert Black people in there and didn't take time to add that layer of character development not just for a black family but a daughter and father relationship...which is why both the protagonist and her father are not developed as they should be. Yes, even though the main character is represented as black, these is a lot of projections pushed onto her in the film by default that can be attributed to boy or even White boy if you will. I mean, think of ALL the interactions between the father and the daughter. Now imagine if that was a son instead, and that they both were white? I DON'T think its only okay for blacks to create for blacks only...because black people can mess up a story portraying black people too and do so expecting a pass. It's all about the research that the creative team does to get the film's world right.

  • Akimbo | August 2, 2012 2:22 AM

    You're coming off like it's a problem when a whitest makes a movie about black people, it's a problem when a black man makes a movie about a white man, and it's a problem when a white man makes a movie about a white man. I get that it's problematic to make black stories "approachable" or "relatable" by inserting a white character, but Beasts doesn't fit into that at all. And it seems odd to both criticize it's white director for focusing on black subjects, and criticize the black director for focusing on whites. Is it only okay for blacks to create for blacks and are they limited to nothing else?

  • Priss | August 2, 2012 2:03 AM

    Comment Police: the white man I'm referring to on Beasts is the white boy directors eye. And I said more of us,our history thru their eyes. But doesn't matter. You see/ read/ what you want. Enjoy whiteys movies. ASWilliams: good one. A list should be made and monitored because they make this kind of pseudo liberal, always half assed crap yearly, BondGirl. And it's a damn shame in my opinion.

  • aswilliams | August 1, 2012 2:54 PM

    @PRISS: You forgot the 1996 Ghosts of Mississippi the film based on trying to find the clues on the 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers. That was mostly guided in the direction of a white attroney helping out the Evers family.

  • bondgirl | August 1, 2012 11:35 AM

    C'mon now Priss, MB was in 1988 and The Help was in 2011. You're making it seem like these type films are being made back to back, except sandwiched between both films are Malcolm X, Glory, Daughter of the Dust, Rosewood, Hotel Rwanda, etc. @Suzanne: I agree that too many filmmakers and actors lack entrepreneurial skills, but what you're suggesting defies logic and practicality. Btw, neither Oprah, Tyler, or Russell went to business school. There is a theory that entrepreneurs are born, not raised.

  • BluTopaz | August 1, 2012 10:33 AM

    @ Suzanne again--And did you really say there should be LESS creative Black people going into the industry? A fictional team of Black investors could come up with maybe 300K in bonuses. 1) Folks are not giving up their bonuses like that in a recessi0n 2) that would barely finance a film like Selma. I get that it's smart to strike a balance between the arts and business; and I am hyped for thinking outside boxes to advance forward, but let's be realistic. Honestly I would encourage more people to study media management as an alternative.

  • justsaying | August 1, 2012 10:30 AM

    @Blutopaz, I thought it was just me...lol...this person knows nothing about those industries....NADA

  • BluTopaz | August 1, 2012 10:17 AM

    @ Suzanne: That is a pie in the sky theory. I work in financial services; the associates making the kind of money you are talking about work 13-14 hour days and weekends. There is no time for "freelancing on the side", and their work days are mad intense and I won't even go into the loooaaads of free time doctors and new attorneys have to work on side projects that will prepare them for another career. While saving lots of money. Esp. in a city like NYC. I work a regular 45-50 hour week, and do editing and other stuff on the side and the caliber of pros I work with don't want people who are dabbling a few hours here and there. I often hide my laptop under my desk at work because of all night editing sessions, a file that takes 4 hours to render and is due that day, and my schedule is relatively flexible. Your idea sounds great--if you know nothing about these actual industries.

  • Suzanne | July 31, 2012 11:38 PM

    When black people wake up and stop going into the entertainment business ill-equipped, things will start to change. People need to STOP GOING into acting or directing RIGHT AFTER SCHOOL. The biggest issue people have is financing projects. What the community needs is less artists going into the arts but more business minded people transferring into the arts. In other words, GO TO WALL STREET. GO TO EXXON. GO INTO LAW & MEDICINE. STAY IN THOSE PROFESSIONS FOR ABOUT 5 YEARS AND THEN MAKE A TRANSITION. The idea is that while working in these lucrative professions, you would have saved money, freelanced on the side by working live specials or editing projects, attended various entertainment industry galas to network with movers and shakers so once you make that transition, people will know you mean business and you have the resources available to carry out your objectives. The problem I see today is that people come into this business putting their fate into someone else's hands. Why do such a thing? You can determine your own destiny when you have the p$wer to pull the $trings. Too often, people come in wet behind the ears as the newly minted graduate of some film school or conservatory. Usually, the new graduate is broke and is auditioning with the hope that one day someone will call. Truth is, that call may never come. But you know what? Tyler Perry didn't wait for that call. He sought other alternatives. The most successful black people in the entertainment business are actually diehard entrepreneurs (i.e. Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Russell Simmons, etc). Until you realize this, it won't change. You have to go in with your money (or ability to security such a credit line) if you want to see your true vision come to fruition. When college grads ask me for advice, I'm honest. Those seeking to go and get an MBA, I tell them to go work on Wall Street for 2-3 Years. The money you make will cover your MBA program in its entirety. You won't have to worry about student loans. For many, the plan has worked. If you applied the same thinking to the entertainment business, you wouldn't have to be at Ms. Ann's mercy. You can fund your first two projects with your bonuses.

  • COMMENT POLICE | July 31, 2012 11:31 PM

    YOU AIN'T SEEN NO BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. IT'S TOLD FROM A BLACK GIRL'S PERSPECTIVE AND ISN'T HISTORICAL. ALSO, FOR ALL ITS FLAWS, THE HELP WAS TOLD FROM MULTIPLE PERSPECTIVES. CUT IT OUT.

  • No | July 31, 2012 10:19 PMReply

    Oh, so the old switcheroo is in play: the Jackman-oriented can be produced because Hugh Jackman, white actor, has more play than Lee Daniels' project with featured a black actor.

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