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Casting, what are the rules?


BigFatCoward
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Can anyone explain what the rules are, or even what they should be for casting characters who are different to how they are written?

With historical figures it would seem obvious (don't change anything), but with fictional ones there doesn't seem to be any hard or fast rule.

Some miscasting creates uproar, while other similar situations are totally ignored. Is it just as simple as straight white men can be recast but under represented groups can't (which I'm fine with)?   

All I know is if I was Adrien Brody I would be very pissed off with Peter Dinklage right now. 

Looking back over the past 30 years you would lose probably 33-50% of male Oscar winners, some remarkable performances, if they had been cast more 'sympathetically'. 

Edited by BigFatCoward
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Well ahistorical casting is much more common at the moment ( if you don’t think about all the John Wayne Genghis Khans) but it depends how it’s done. The Great has a hugely diverse cast with obviously incorrect casting but the show explicitly isn’t a true depiction of historical reality so it’s works really well.

But there has been a recent shift to uproar if anyone plays a character from a minority group for which they don’t already belong. The argument seems to be that the actor is taking roles away from minority actors. There’s a case for that but it’s getting to the point of ridiculousness.

If an actor cannot ever put themselves into the shoes of someone else enough to ‘pretend’ to be them.. then what the hell is it that they are even doing? 

 

Edited by Heartofice
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38 minutes ago, BigFatCoward said:

Looking back over the past 30 years you would lose probably 33-50% of male Oscar winners, some remarkable performances, if they had been cast more 'sympathetically'. 

We would probably have gotten some other remarkable performances, though.

When it comes to casting fictional character, I'm all for casting the best actor/actress for the role, regardless of race or ethnicity or whatever, as long as it doesn't change some significant aspect of the character. That's where things get complicated though, determining what is a "significant aspect of the character" is not that straightforward. For example, there was an uproar about a dark-skinned girl playing Hermione in some Harry Potter play a while back. To me, that was stupid since I don't see Hermione's skin colour as an important part of her character in the books. It would make a bigger change if they wanted to switch her parents into wizard and a witch, since her "Muggle" background is important part of her. I have read Harry Potter books after seeing the first film, so I imagined Hermione as Ema Watson, but it would make perfect sense if someone who's read the books before movies came out pictured Hermione differently, and that wouldn't take anything away from the character.

When it comes to mythological characters, I would tend to lean more towards the rules regarding historical characters but it would depend on what exactly we refer to as "mythology". If a movie was to be made about myths regarding Norse gods, I would expect to have a Scandinavian (or at least Scandinavian looking) cast while I didn't mind seeing Idris Elba as Heimdall in Thor and Avengers movies.

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What it comes down to I think is that even still in the current age it's a lot easier for projects to get made that are adaptations or based on culture/stories/myths of Europe and white America, and therefore there simply aren't as many prime roles for minority actors. In an ideal world there would be much more opportunity for representation in original roles or roles that were always written as PoC (or other minorities of course), but we don't live in that ideal world and using established roles but making it normal to see minorities in them is an... unideal overall solution but probably useful step in the right direction, and definitely, well, fair in terms of just giving some great minority actors the high-profile roles they deserve. 

Like, when is Denzel gonna get a role like Macbeth that was originally written for a black man, that has the cultural stature of Macbeth and can get the attention and iconic status of a Macbeth? Until there are more roles for minority actors that can have that kind of status, recasting is totally fair enough imo.

And we're a very long way away from there, and will be so long as you still get pricks squealing woke culture because of Disney casting black or asian actors in Star Wars- not even recasts, just new characters that aren't white!- so hard that their role was cut down hard (almost removed in Kelly Marie Tran's case) in a later film. That kind of chode is why there needs to be a push in the first place rather than waiting for it to just naturally happen. 

 

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Denzel gonna get a role like Macbeth that was originally written for a black man, that has the cultural stature of Macbeth and can get the attention and iconic status of a Macbeth

a great point with a moderately ineffective example--he played othello when in theater school. that doesn't vitiate the argument, of course.  we know that there's 100 or so dark-skinned characters in elizabethan and jacobean theatre--though not many with the weight of othello and aaron from titus. do we count 'tawny' cleopatra? marlowe's tamburlaine innovates by presenting a spectacle of non-speaking 'moors,' which developed further non-speaking roles and eventually spoken parts and then the apex in othello. the problem is the continual re-inscription of value for this particular collection of texts, rather than other collections that don't focus so much on european aristocrats.  

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Apropos of nothing, Orson Welles adapted and directed the Federal Theatre Project's all-black staging of Macbeth. Known tin theatre history as "Voodoo Macbeth", as it changed the setting to early 19th century Haiti and the witches to practitioners of voodoo. A recent dramatic film by the title of Voodoo Macbeth was made about it and premiered in NYC at the Harlem Film Festival.

A little footage exists of the production:

Re: Brody and Dinklage, is this referring to the Cyrano film? To be fair, its adapting a stage play written by Dinklage's wife and originally starring him, so no great surprise... Still hasn't released here in Sweden, I'm eager to see it.

The Great is an excellent example of just casting whoever (although there are limits -- once they establish British-Indian actor Sacha Dhawan as Grigory Orlov, when they introduce his uncle Varnya he's played by Ramon Tikaram, so they attempt some continuity between actors who are playing related characters)

 

Edited by Ran
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Well Shakespeare is one of those things that doesn’t need to be in the setting of the original text for it to work. There are a million ways to adapt it.. don’t wanna bring up Ran again on this board but Kurosawa’s Ran. 

The reason The Great works is that it is open about the fact that it is not trying to remain historically accurate. I mean not only is it in the title but everything about it is modern and of it’s own voice. They can get away with casting Black Russians and nobody bats an eyelid. If they were trying to create a false sense of history then that would be another matter.

 

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I think right now is a perfect time to introduce new talent from minorities and marginalized groups. For one, there is competitively large interest in topics where they are a good cast anyway, at least it's getting a lot of coverage, and also - with the current focus on superhero movies and franchises like star wars it doesn't really matter who is prancing in front of the camera as in there is no need to have so many already established names in leading roles. So it is a good opportunity to build up creed for non white male standard looking actors. They can later use the opportunity to use the credentials to land more and more rewarding roles. 

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10 hours ago, BigFatCoward said:

Can anyone explain what the rules are, or even what they should be for casting characters who are different to how they are written?

With historical figures it would seem obvious (don't change anything), but with fictional ones there doesn't seem to be any hard or fast rule.

Some miscasting creates uproar, while other similar situations are totally ignored. Is it just as simple as straight white men can be recast but under represented groups can't (which I'm fine with)?   

All I know is if I was Adrien Brody I would be very pissed off with Peter Dinklage right now. 

Looking back over the past 30 years you would lose probably 33-50% of male Oscar winners, some remarkable performances, if they had been cast more 'sympathetically'. 

And just what groups are those? Tibetans? Inuits? I assume you have a precise formula of how much should each group on a planet be represented when casting for movie roles. Because otherwise 'under represented groups' means anything you want.

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7 hours ago, Gronzag said:

And just what groups are those? Tibetans? Inuits? I assume you have a precise formula of how much should each group on a planet be represented when casting for movie roles. Because otherwise 'under represented groups' means anything you want.

Anyone who isn't a straight white male pretty much. What is it about that that bothers you so much? 

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6 hours ago, BigFatCoward said:

Anyone who isn't a straight white male pretty much. What is it about that that bothers you so much? 

What bothers me 'so much' is self righteous individuals trying to pass their own arbitrary beliefs as gospel.

Saying 'Anyone who isn't a straight white male pretty much' has the same merit as saying 'Anyone who isn't a straight black male pretty much'.

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38 minutes ago, Gronzag said:

What bothers me 'so much' is self righteous individuals trying to pass their own arbitrary beliefs as gospel.

Saying 'Anyone who isn't a straight white male pretty much' has the same merit as saying 'Anyone who isn't a straight black male pretty much'.

Counterpoint: No, it doesn't. Representation is eminently calculable. Diversity of on screen talent is finally becoming more equitable - (https://www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-56860578) though there is more to go 'behind the scenes' (https://variety.com/2020/film/news/diversity-hollywood-behind-the-scenes-ucla-study-1203494631/).

Quote

Most tellingly, the study reveals that having a diverse cast makes a substantial impact at the box office. Films with a predominantly white cast posted the lowest median global grosses in 2019, whereas films with a cast between 41% to 50% people of color performed the best in 2019. Box office performance favored diversity internationally and domestically, as well: For eight of the top 10 highest grossing films worldwide in 2019, the majority of domestic audiences were not white.

Despite the clear financial advantage in a diverse cast, the study also noted that films with black leads were the least likely to earn distribution in China in 2019, and international distribution overall. And at the Oscars, films directed by women haven’t won an Academy Award since 2015.

The increasing — and lucrative — diversity on screen and the lack of it behind the scenes was impossible to ignore for Hunt and Ramón.

“It’s as if the White men dominating Hollywood have opted to pursue a strategy of trying to appease the increasingly diverse market with more inclusion on the big screen,” they wrote, “but without fundamentally altering the way they do business behind the camera.”

 

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5 minutes ago, Week said:

Most tellingly, the study reveals that having a diverse cast makes a substantial impact at the box office. Films with a predominantly white cast posted the lowest median global grosses in 2019, whereas films with a cast between 41% to 50% people of color performed the best in 2019. Box office performance favored diversity internationally and domestically, as well: For eight of the top 10 highest grossing films worldwide in 2019, the majority of domestic audiences were not white.

 

Would be really interested in seeing how they worked that one out. I think there is a big difference between 'people going to see movies because it has a diverse cast' and 'people are going to see movies which happen to have diverse casts'.
 

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4 minutes ago, Heartofice said:

Would be really interested in seeing how they worked that one out. I think there is a big difference between 'people going to see movies because it has a diverse cast' and 'people are going to see movies which happen to have diverse casts'.
 

Correlation/causation sure -- it's not crazy to imagine that people like to see more diversity and people who look like themselves on screen. 

Plenty of studies searching for causation that do find strong correlation between diversity and success -- might be self-selecting or simply a better product comes out from less homogeneity and myopic group-think.

https://hbr.org/2018/07/the-other-diversity-dividend

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34 minutes ago, Week said:

Correlation/causation sure -- it's not crazy to imagine that people like to see more diversity and people who look like themselves on screen. 

Plenty of studies searching for causation that do find strong correlation between diversity and success -- might be self-selecting or simply a better product comes out from less homogeneity and myopic group-think.

https://hbr.org/2018/07/the-other-diversity-dividend

Or it could be that most of the successful movies and studios have made a big push to include more diverse casts. It really depends on what they are deeming to be 'success' though, because if it's box office take then you basically have Disney / Marvel___________________> Everyone else. 

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1 hour ago, Heartofice said:

Or it could be that most of the successful movies and studios have made a big push to include more diverse casts. It really depends on what they are deeming to be 'success' though, because if it's box office take then you basically have Disney / Marvel___________________> Everyone else. 

What's the point of your line of argument here?  That these studies have an endogeneity problem?  Because even if they do it doesn't change the fact that movies with diverse casts can still be just as successful than if they didn't have such diverse casts, or at least thereabouts.

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15 minutes ago, DMC said:

What's the point of your line of argument here?  That these studies have an endogeneity problem?  Because even if they do it doesn't change the fact that movies with diverse casts can still be just as successful than if they didn't have such diverse casts, or at least thereabouts.

The suggestion seems to be that movies are successful BECAUSE of casting diversity, but I’d suggest that you could cast a pile of old socks and a toaster in the next Star Wars movie and it would make a ton of money. 

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