In an article in August of 2014, Rebecca Ford of the Hollywood Reporter writes about an issue that has long been known to people in the black community: the lack of development of black stars in Hollywood. The article bears the headline: Who Is the New Denzel? Hollywood Struggles to Launch Next Black Stars.
The title points to Hollywood as the source of the problem of few black stars, but actually, what follows is an unwarranted indictment of black actors and the black community.
Rebecca Ford describes how newcomer Chadwick Boseman who has starred in 42 (2013), is booked solid with movies like the James Brown biopic Get on Up (2014), Gods of Egypt (2016), Captain America: Civil War (2016), and Black Panther (2017), and has no room on his plate for Ang Lee’s upcoming Muhammad Ali film. She points to the empty space that is no black actors in the pipeline for stardom to fill the shoes of Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, and a growing slate of black actors over the age of 40.
Ford desperately needs a face to shoulder the burden of this problem, so she immediately quotes Gil Robertson, president of the African American Film Critics Association with the line: “We haven’t really done enough to cultivate the next generation. It’s one thing to appear in a movie here or there, but it’s another to really build a rich career.”
Having established that black people are not working hard enough to train the next generation of their actors, Ford then points the finger at black actors themselves. She writes: “Hollywood follows the money, and no under-35 black star has carried a global mega-grossing film in recent years. None besides perhaps [Anthony] Mackie carry name recognition with general audiences.”
According to Ford, the second issue, after the fact that black people don’t cultivate their youth, is that black actors fail to carry movies overseas.
What is Ford’s answer to the problem of the dearth of African American actors poised for stardom? The same as what it has always been: the black community and black people themselves.
What Rebecca Ford does not supply us with is a list of films where Hollywood has placed under 35-black stars in any leading role, much less a list of these films that receive sufficient marketing, promotion, and production budgets to carry out mega-grossing success in the international scene.
The last we checked, there were no such films.
It is by now common knowledge that white Hollywood is reluctant to put any actors who look remotely black in any role where they are the main event. Didn’t the black character in Interstellar die? Don’t the black characters in most sci-fi movies die before halftime? And if not, aren’t they magical or monstrous or villainous and not real humans?
White Hollywood fails to cast black actors in roles and then blames the actors for not being prepared to serve themselves on a platter for instant commodification.
It’s just like Chris Rock wrote in his brutally honest essay on the Hollywood Reporter:
[quote_box_center]Now when it comes to casting, Hollywood pretty much decides to cast a black guy or they don’t. We’re never on the “short list.” We’re never “in the mix.” When there’s a hot part in town and the guys are reading for it, that’s just what happens. It was never like, “Is it going to be Ryan Gosling or Chiwetel Ejiofor for Fifty Shades of Grey?”…Or how about True Detective? I never heard anyone go, “Is it going to be Amy Adams or Gabrielle Union?” for that show. I didn’t hear one black girl’s name on those lists. Not one. Literally everyone in town was up for that part, unless you were black.[/quote_box_center]
Hopefully Rebecca Ford has since read Chris Rock’s essay.
If white Hollywood is so concerned with finding a black person to play Muhammad Ali, they should go looking for one long before one is needed. Obviously you can’t sit around and wonder why there is no food if you never planted any crops, or are we too divorced from common sense that even the most rudimentary processes seem overly complex?
Even when black actors and directors are given roles with miniscule support from Hollywood, they are expected to turn those pictures into colossal successes.
This is evident in the content of the latest leaked Sony messages concerning Denzel Washington, the actor who Rebecca Ford labels as one of the most bankable black stars. However, executives at Sony are not so convinced.
In an email, Sony affiliates discuss The Equalizer, Denzel Washington’s most recent film, which was made on a $55 million budget—average, by Hollywood standards—and grossed an estimated $191 million worldwide, nearly quadruple the budget. But this outcome, according to an unnamed producer and Sony Chairman Michael Lynton, is not good enough. They feel that because Denzel Washington is black, his films won’t do well overseas, so there is not much reason to give his films much support, nor to even consider casting him in overseas vehicles.
The unnamed producer went as far as calling the international audience “racist” to justify why Washington or any black man should not headline a movie that is meant to transgress national borders. Much like Rebecca Ford did in her article when she said: “overseas audiences…haven’t always been receptive to black stars.”
Blame the victim, blame the foreigners, anything but examine the real problem—which is of course, Hollywood’s race problem.
The Hollywood industry is thoroughly infested with a race problem. But it also goes beyond that.
There is a vast emptiness of stars of any race.
What little quality was left in Hollywood movies has been weakened by decades of tribal nepotism, what amounts to ethnic-affinity handouts.
Yes, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, and the likes will truly be missed, but who will replace Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman, Julia Roberts, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, John Travolta, and Matt Damon?
Those friends of friends and family who have been given a free ride to bask in the silver screen have failed miserably to deliver any charisma or likeability to audiences. In the next few decades, it will be difficult indeed to find a star amongst the talentless histrionics audience must endure, just so Hollywood can preserve its system of cycling profits in the hands of few.
Rather than blaming Blacks, what Hollywood truly requires is a makeover.
But will white Hollywood ever take a critically reflexive and frank look in the mirror?
Oh never. Holly would never look into the mirror. Hollywood will always blame Blacks, and the Hollywood Reported will always help them blame Blacks. See, they are racists, but they are only racist because we, Black people, have do not have good enough talent to lead their mediocre films. Peeeew!
Hollywood Reporter and Sony, of course run by tribes can go on and die out. They think they have a foreign market now? Well, lets see if anything that is not about some Christian figure makes any money abroad.
Rebecca Ford cannot write a single coherent essay. It’s one contradiction after another. Why she works for the Hollywood reporter, I bet her family is also connected there as well, just like all the white gals and boys a have family connected at Hollywood.
Black movie do well. And they do so well that Hollywood refuses to make them lest they become the mainstay. Rebecca Ford does not know what she’s talking about. Her essay are a tad bit out of context and the logic in most of them are poor. I bet she got her job at Hollywood Reporter because she has family connection there. She can enjoy but she should learn to leave us alone if she doesn’t like to read anything but white books!
This comment broke community rules!
Oh well there are no Black people and Black films don’t make money… hahaha… white people in Hollywood are just idiotic. They like to think they have success in Hollywood. Success? When you are the only people being allowed or given free money to do everything, I don’t think that is called success. There’s a name for it, tribalism.
Like Chris Rock said, in LA it is very hard not to hire a Mexican. But white people in Hollywood would always find a way not to hire a Mexican or Black person to raise the volume or hold the umbrella on a set. It’s ridiculous the extent to which they go to not hire Black people or Mexicans. Hollywood is just the KKK in plain clothes. That’s all it is.
Rebecca Ford is logic challenged. Or she is challenged, mentally that is.
Beautiful essay. I totally agree with you. Its crazy they have to blame Black people for the lack of Black talent in Hollywood. As they have white talent already there? What they have there in Hollywood is no talent at all, these are mediocre, or bad actors – children of the rich and connected who think acting is the new mum and pop corner store. Hollywood has become a corner store really! I guess it has always been. Europeans are better filmmakers, the Nigerians and Ghanaians have better distribution and India has style. What is Hollywood? Boooom … Booooom Booom Booooooooom! Destructive petulence of film like a children of children with toys!