Saturday, 1 November 2008


Today I read two very interesting articles which in my mind, seem to contradict each other perfectly. One of them was written a good 5 or 6 months ago, but it's still relevant because only this week was the production it talks about broadcast:

Why the Dickens shouldn't costume dramas be ethnically diverse?

It's an interesting concept, and I think one which is a lot more acceptable in theatre, to have actors play characters who, physically, they don't resemble. I can only think of a few examples in film. The first is in Run Fatboy Run where Thandie Newton has a white kid. The other is all those indie films where lots of different actors play one character, like in I'm Not There, where Cate Blanchett plays Bob Dylan.

I don't think that this casting necessarily affects the success of a production, but at the same time they do not help to create a reality in which we can truly believe in. Maybe more importantly, people often have very firm ideas about how a popular character looks in their head. Film or play adaptations of books have to be really careful when casting, because you don't want to repel the fans. How pissed off was Truman Capote when they cast Audrey Hepburn to play Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's, and not Marilyn Monroe? Still - that was a great success...

How A-list stars change shape for films

This is the second article, which was only published today. I found it fascinating, but also disturbing. On the one hand, all the films which the article mentions probably wouldn't have been as succesful if Bridget Jones was skinny, or if Christian Bale looked his normal sexy self. Still, if colour-blind or sex-blind casting can work, why can't body-blind casting work?

The recently released Brideshead Revisited has a curvy Julia. In the book, she's described as fashionably skinny, with the ideal 20s shape. But when Miramax asked the actress to lose weight, Emma Thompson was infuriated and threatened to quit if they didn't retract their request. Rightly so, in my opinion and Julia still looked stunning. Plus - if it's going to compromise the actor's health (and I don't see how it wouldn't) then what's wrong with a body double?

What do you say?


  1. I'm glad Emma Thompson stood up for herself.

    I'm not sure how I feel about casting against "type," because I've never had to think about it before. I guess I'm open to things changing or staying the way they are. Films are about imagination, and in the end, I don't really care who's doing the acting as long as they're good.

  2. I think that non-traditional casting for classics can make audiences aware of the unconscious racism and stereotypes that go unquestioned. I am for it.