I know, we said no more Django Unchained posts. However, this isn’t so much a Django Unchained item (no critique nor praise of the film here), as much as it is a nod to several conversations and debates that you folks have had in various comment sections of this blog, relating to the casting of black British actors in roles as African-Americans (and vice-versa, or as Africans) whether on TV or film, as well as the, shall we say, “accent problem.”
So I thought it was worth sharing and elaborating on, as well as connecting it to previous conversations, regardless of where you stand on the matter.
In an interview with the U.K.’s Sun newspaper, while plugging the film across the pond, where it opens on the 18th of this month,Quentin Tarantino stated, while, Idris Elba was one of the actors he looked at for the lead role eventually played by Jamie Foxx, “he never stood a chance of getting the part,” because “he’s British.”
Tarantino said. “Yeah, Idris is British and this is an American story. I think a problem with a lot of movies that deal with this issue is they cast British actors to play the Southerners and it goes a long way to distancing the movie. They put on their gargoyle masks and they do their phoney accents and you are not telling an American story any more. They are just making hay of it, whether it be James Mason in Mandingo or Michael Caine in Hurry Sundown, they get British actors to do this.”
The first thing that I thought was, if he never really stood a chance of getting the part, why even look at him for the part in the first place…?
Although, I’ll say that while Idris did an excellent job portraying Stringer Bell in HBO’s The Wire, pulling off the accent rather well – so much that most audiences, and even many of his fellow Brits didn’t even know he was British – you might recall he did have some difficulty with his southern accent in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus last summer.
And maybe Tarantino auditioned him and caught on to that, which killed his chances – hence the comment about “phoney accents.” Because, apparently, speaking in a Southern accent was crucial for the key characters in Django Unchained.
As Tarantino notes in the Sun interview:
“Leo is not from the South, but pretty much every other white actor in the movie is from the South. And most of the black actors are from the South. And I’m from the South.”
The other actors Tarantino looked at for the part were Chris Tucker, Terrence Howard, Michael K. Williams, andT yrese.
I’m guessing Tarantino’s words may not go over well with some – specifically, his motivations for not casting a Brit (in a nutshell, this is a quintessential American story, so I’m going to cast American actors in American roles); although I’ll also guess that others will applaud them.
But this seemingly nationalistic casting conundrum, we could call it, is a conversation that extends beyond just the U.S. and the U.K. You’ll recall local blowback over the casting of Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard as Winnie Mandela and Nelson Mandela – a quintessential South African story we could argue; and also Sanaa Lathan as a Senegalese woman in Wonderful World, and Morgan Freeman also as Mandela in Invictus – in recent examples…
Read More: Tambay A. Obenson, indiewire.com