A Chinese-American actress (or “female actor” if preferred), Chloe Bennet, accuses Hollywood of being racist because she has been forced to change her name from Chloe Wang. I dare say Hollywood is nefarious and manipulative – money is often its main priority – yet consider all those valiant Jewish actors of old who were forced to change their names to sound more like WASPs. And they never complained!
Bernie Schwartz became Tony Curtis, David Daniel Kaminsky became Danny Kaye, Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas and Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko, who was Russian-Ukrainian, became Natalie Wood. Kirk Douglas, still with us, has always expressed gratitude for the great opportunities he had been given and the sacrifices his parents made.
Ms Bennet was praising Ed Skrein, the white actor who quit a role because he felt it should be allocated to an actor of Asian heritage. That’s decent and generous of him, although drama would be in dire straits if every actor had to be an exact ethnic replica of the character portrayed.
Irish actors, over the years, have often had to stand aside to allow more successful English or American stars play Irish characters. The movie star Julia Roberts looked glamorous but struck me as highly unsuitable as Mick’s fiancée Kitty Kiernan in Michael Collins. Sarah Miles and John Mills played rustic Irish characters in Ryan’s Daughter. Fred Astaire, literally on his last legs, and with a terrible accent, starred in Finian’s Rainbow, with Tommy Steele as a local lad and Petula Clark as a colleen – all roles which really should have gone to Irish musical performers.
Mind you, Irish actors have sometimes got their own back. Colin Farrell was the Macedonian in Alexander (the Great). It was widely regarded as a disaster and Mr Farrell hopelessly miscast.
There’s an argument for ethnically correct casting. There’s also an argument for “acting”. But I do like Kirk Douglas’s attitude of gratitude all the same.
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