Friday, May 23, 2008

wanted: roles for black actresses

Wanted rolls into theaters this summer, bringing the violent comic book mini-series to life. Director Timur Bekmambetov has been clear that he took many liberties when adapting the story for film, including losing the super-villain mythos, and instead building the story around a league of super-assassins. I don't have a problem with directors and screenwriters significantly adapting source material to make their films work, and Wanted is not a series that would easily translate without major changes. What bothers me is the casting.

The character of The Fox will be played by Angelina Jolie. This is the second time Jolie has portrayed a woman of color in the last year (the first being Mariane Pearl in A Mighty Heart). Colorblind casting is great in theory, but in an industry that's severely lacking in quality roles for women of color, I'm incredibly saddened to see another great black female role go to a white woman. There are dozens of actresses of color that could've carried out the role of The Fox, including Thandie Newton, Zoe Saldana, Nia Long, Sanaa Lathan, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kerry Washington and Anika Noni Rose. All of these women have the chops and the look to pull off the character. Despite her disastrous portrayals of Storm and Catwoman, I'd even have been pleased to see Halle Berry in the role (supposedly, the comic book character's physical appearance is based on Berry).

In response to criticism about her casting, Jolie stated, "I know that people are frustrated at the lack of great roles [for people of color], but I think they've picked the wrong example here." If this isn't a perfect example of Hollywood's disregard for talented, black actresses, what is?

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