‘It’s a Fictional Story’: ‘The Harder They Fall’ Director Addresses Colorism Backlash Over Zazie Beetz Portraying Stage Coach Mary

Director Jeymes Samuel is addressing the backlash his film “The Harder They Fall” received prior to its release in theaters over the weekend. 

Many people on social media have expressed their excited about the Western featuring an all-Black cast with actors to include Idris Elba, Regina King and Jonathan Majors, among others. 

Netflix’s cast for ‘The Harder They Fall’ sparks outrage after Zazie Beetz lands role of dark-skin Stagecoach Mary. Photo: Stagecoach Mary / Wikimedia / @zaziebeetz / Instagram

However, following the debut of it trailer, many critics pointed out that actress Zazie Beetz looked nothing remotely similar to the real-life historical figure she was portraying, Mary Fields, better known as Stagecoach Mary or Black Mary. Fields is said to be six foot tall, dark-skinned and plus-size, The FX Atlanta star however, is much slimmer, short in stature, and is biracial with fair-toned skin. 

During a recent press junket, Jeymes spoke with “Insider” when the controversy came up; the director felt many “pulled that particular point without having seen the movie.”

The writer appeared to acknowledge the “complaining” that has taken place online, which included many further accusing Hollywood of favoring light-skin talent over their darker counterparts. “And it’s a beautiful point. They make it well,” the British director admitted before adding, “ I would say to them: I’m not making a biopic.

Samuels later noted that a majority of the characters in the movie did not know each other in real life and much like in the case of Beetz, neither did they resemble the actors playing them.

“I would point out that the real Rufus Buck died at 18 years old and was fair-skinned,” he continued. “The real Cherokee Bill was a cross between Native American and Black. He had white in him – he could pass as white. We see he doesn’t look anything like LaKeith. The real Nat Love didn’t know Stagecoach Mary. The real Stagecoach Mary didn’t know Cherokee Bill, the real Cherokee Bill didn’t know Rufus – it’s a fictional story.”

Despite some negative feedback, Samuel told the outlet that his film is doing exactly what he intended it to do–something he says “I wanted everyone to do for years.” “Bring up images of these people and go ‘Look, here’s the real thing!’ ” he said. “Here’s the real person. We existed!”

“The Harder They Fall” is out in theaters now, but will be available for streaming on Netflix  on Nov. 3. 

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