Sunday, January 31, 2016

I guess there weren't any white actresses available

I've been watching with some bemusement the complaints about Joseph Fiennes being cast as Michael Jackson in an upcoming movie. The truly bizarre part, at least from a disinterested bystander's perspective, is seeing the side-by-side photos of Jackson and Fiennes and realizing that Jackson looks a heck of a lot paler than the white guy picked to play him. I can understand why black actors would be upset -- Jackson was, after all, African American -- but the reality is that between the make-up Jackson wore to cover up the blotchiness caused by vitiligo and the various plastic surgeries he'd had I'm not sure there's a black male actor on the planet who could play him. And I'm not sure any of the female black actors who might have the nose would be too thrilled with having to wear all that whiteface. One of the panelists on The Nightly Show suggested that Jackson's sister LaToya would have been a good choice, but I seem to recall that while LaToya may have paid for the same face as her brother, she's definitely a different body type. LaToya has curves.

Casting actors for roles in bio-pics is inherently tricky, especially if the bio-pic is about someone who's either still around or died so recently we all still have a mental image of what that person should look like. Whoever gets cast as someone famous should bear at least a superficial resemblance to the original person. Fiennes actually comes pretty close to looking like Michael Jackson: thin nose, strong chin, similar ears. He can also act, although his career must have been rather stagnant lately when all the references to him are citing "Shakespeare in Love," a movie that came out so long ago I actually saw it in a theater. In short, looked at from a purely rational perspective, Fiennes playing Jackson makes sense.

On the other hand, given the recent kerfuffle over the Oscar nominations, I find it hard to believe that somewhere in Great Britain (the movie in question is apparently a BBC production) there wasn't a young skinny unknown black actor who could have done a credible job. Who knows -- given the premise of the movie (a road trip that Michael Jackson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlon Brando supposedly took) maybe the whole point of the casting is to make things even more bizarre than the reality was. A road trip? Brando, Taylor, and Jackson? Which one of them drove? And why? And just who is the target audience for the proposed film? It actually sounds so weird that maybe black actors everywhere should be feeling grateful they never got a call from their agents about auditioning for this particular role. 


  1. I liked some of his music, but I don't think I would pay to see a movie about him.

  2. that is stranger than science fiction

  3. Seems like they could have given a black actor the same type of makeup Jackson used. Or have someone do an Andy Serkis.


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