So, you know Woody Allen, of course. The filmmaker who’s seemingly been a critics’ darling, since the early 70’s; Your typical liberal New Yorker, who also loves to play jazz. But there’s that one thing though. You know what I’m talking about. That one thing that's been whispered about, or even loudly discussed, ever since Allen’s started writing and directing his own films. And that thing is, the fact that you never see black people in his movies.
And considering that most of his films have been set in New York, one of the most racially diverse cities on the entire planet, how is it that black people are virtually non-existent in his films?
Well that's not entirely true. There have been a few exceptions. There was Sonia Rolland playing Josephine Baker in "Midnight in Paris," although she was basically relegated to the background, as an extra with no lines. And there was Hazelle Goodman in his 1997 film "Deconstructing Harry," playing... take a guess, a prostitute but of course. Maybe the most significant presence of a black actor in a Woody Allen film was when Chiwetel Ejiofor appeared in "Melinda and Melinda."
And that’s about as much as I can come up with.
So what's the problem? Why hasn’t Allen had black actors in his films, especially in starring roles?
Well, he was just recently asked that question in a profile about him, in the New York Observer (HERE). When asked why black actors haven't appeared in his films, the writer of the piece states that Allen was “horrified” when the subject was brought up.
But Allen has his reasons. It’s very simple. According to the filmmaker: “Not unless I write a story that requires it. You don’t hire people based on race. You hire people based on who is correct for the part. The implication is that I’m deliberately not hiring black actors, which is stupid. I cast only what’s right for the part. Race, friendship means nothing to me except who is right for the part.”
Run that by me again...
Talk about contradictory. He says he doesn’t hire black actors unless the story requires it, but, at the same time, he says he doesn’t hire based on race.
HUH? I’ve read his response a few times already, and it still doesn’t make sense.
But not to fear, because, as he says in the interview, Allen is friends with both Chris Rock (who he once took out to dinner in Rome), and Spike Lee: “I’m friendly with Spike Lee. We don’t socialize, but I don’t socialize with anyone [...] I don’t have white friends either.”
Oh that Woody. Always good for a laugh.
So what do you think about this? Or maybe you really don’t care? Or maybe you don't think Woody Allen has to put black actors in his films. Or is Allen really being upfront and honest about how he and other white filmmakers think? That is, unless the part actually calls for a black or POC actor, casting an actor of color is not even something that occurs to them. That shouldn't really be a surprise to anyone, should it?
The message is, basically, if you’re a black actor, don’t bother showing up at any casting calls for Allen’s movie. But hey, Tyler Perry is still hiring.