Author Topic: Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center  (Read 5822 times)

Offline zeraze

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Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center
« on: August 20, 2006, 01:42:09 pm »
Black America Web just posted what's shaping up to be one of the biggest racial scandals since Virginia Senator George Allen (R.) called an Indian campaign aide a monkey. 

Oliver Stone's acclaimed World Trade Center turns out to have distorted history big time.  An excerpt:

Controversy and criticism continue to swirl around the film. "World Trade Center," Oliver Stone's recnetly-released 9/11 drama, as growing numbers of disbelieving fans probe its portrayal of two black men -- heroes on that fateful day -- as white.
 
The controversy began mounting more than two weeks ago with the shocking discovery that the film's most riveting character, played by Nicholas Cage, is a black former Marine sergeant. Another heroic figure, a New York City policeman, is actually African-American as well.
Cage's character in reality is Jason L. Thomas, 32, a Columbus, Ohio, security guard and father of five children. The other African-American cast as a white man is Bruce Reynolds, the police officer.
 
BlackAmericaWeb.com's repeated efforts to interview Thomas, who is currently vacationing with his family in New York City, were unsuccessful. Reynolds could also not be located.
 
Producer Michael Shamberg, in a number of print and electronic news accounts about Thomas' reappearance since September 2001 and the subsequent shock it has caused, said he has apologized to him and Reynolds. Thomas, according to those reports, has graciously accepted Shamberg's apology, but has expressed reservations about scenes he says inaccurately reflect the realities which unfolded at Ground Zero on 9/11.
 
"If you're going to tell a story, you should try to get it as accurate as possible," he told Pittsburgh Couier writer Beverly Todd. "Some of the things did bother me to a certain degree. I'm an African-American male, and there's a white character being depicted as myself. But I'm not upset. It's bigger than me, its bigger than Staff Sgt. Karnes (David, also a former Marine whom he met that day at the site). A lot of people lost their lives. That's what needs to be remembered."
 
Thomas said he initially "found a couple of guys, but not enough to start a search and rescue. I remember saying, 'I'm going to start a search and rescue with or without you, because someone needs us.'"   
 
Shamberg excused Thomas' casting as a white man by saying that "by the time we discovered he's black we had already been in production for a day and it was too late to do anything about it."


Naturally, Shamberg's excuse hasn't gone over well.  The Vulcans (NYC's Black Fighters Association) is calling to boycott World Trade Center.  Who wants to place bets that the boycott expands beyond Black fighters?

If you think Mel Gibson's mass media crucifixion was bad, Stone is going to get A LOT worse.

Read the full article here: http://www.blackamericaweb.com/site.aspx/bawnews/worldtradecenter818

zeraze
« Last Edit: August 20, 2006, 01:51:42 pm by zeraze »
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michaelintp

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DISGUSTING! (NOTE SPOILERS CONTAINED HEREIN)
« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2006, 11:23:31 am »
Sorry I posted my thread on "World Trade Center" later than this one real fast after coming home, thought I scanned the earlier messages and missed this. 

THIS IS NOT ONLY DISGUSTING, IT IS ALSO VERY VERY STUPID.  It would have added to the underlying message of the film (people helping one another, transcending differences etc) if a key player in the film had been Black.  Not that it matters, but I was kind of thinking this while watching the film, but then I thought, "Oh well, if they were White and Latino, well, then that's who they were."  Now we find out otherwise?!!!  I am dumbfounded.   I know that Oliver Stone has played fast and loose with facts in many of his prior films, but on something as basic and simple as this?  Plus Oliver Stone is a pretty liberal guy, as reflected in many of his prior fillms.  So this really amazes me.

(I think the article above messes up on something though, as Nick Cage's character was not the guy who did the search for survivors -- Cage played a cop -- maybe the cop you refer to.  OH WAIT!  I see there is a correction in the posted article, "EDITOR'S NOTE: This is a corrected version of this story, originally posted on Thursday, Aug. 17. The original story mistakenly identified Nicholas Cage's character in “World Trade Center“ as someone based on black former Marine Jason Thomas. BAW regrets the error.").

Anyway, it was a very good movie, but THIS REALLY PISSES ME OFF!  To have a Black actor play one of the former Marines who was searching for victims would have been so so so powerful!  I mean, that guy was a REAL HERO!  And he was an African-American. That should have been shown, not buried for the sake of ....?  (higher ticket sales in Maryland?)  DISGUSTING.   :(

Well, in reading the article in full, it looks like makers of the film didn't know Thomas was Black at the time the film was researched or written, or cast.  It is mind boggling that they did not research the ethnicity of the key players though. As the article points out, even after one day of shooting, they could have re-cast and re-shot the episodes with the Thomas character (though that would have probably created some contractual problems with the actor already playing the role, and lost time in finding a new actor, and the expense of the re-shoot etc ... BUT this was such a significant error (judging this in the most favorable light possible) that it should have been corrected -- in my opinion.

Here is a picture of Thomas.  He deserves to be shown:


« Last Edit: August 21, 2006, 11:49:44 am by michaelintp »

michaelintp

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Question for Reginald Hudlin -- Given the Costs was a Re-Shoot Possible?
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2006, 12:19:56 pm »
Question for Reginald Hudlin:  You're the guy with the experience in the industry.  Given how far along the film was, that a day of shooting had been completed with the White actor, who was presumably under contract ... would it have been possible for the producer and director to fire the actor, find a black actor, and re-shoot the scenes -- given the delays involved, cost of set changes, contractual issues, and the like?  Or would the cost have have been prohibitive?

I'm not excusing Stone's crappy research here -- asking the survivors the race of the key players is such an obvious thing that they should have done. (... and one must wonder if there was not, at "best", some unconscious racism going on there ... that they did not even think to ask).  But given that they did initially screw this up and did cast a White actor, and did complete one day of shooting -- within the realm of financial reality in the Industry, could Oliver Stone have corrected the error?

I'm curious about your thoughts, as a professional in the Industry.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2006, 05:12:59 pm »
I haven't seen the film and I hate people who talk about things they haven't seen.

I also love Oliver Stone...his films inspire me and he's always been nice to me when we've met.

But could Denzel have been great in the role wiht no substanial loss of box office clout?  Yes.  And I love Nic Cage.

The arguement against black actors is usually "they are not big stars internationally" so they don't cast them in movies that will make them international stars.

Denzel's home video clout is very powerful - enough to balance out possible (and I mean only possible) weakness overseas?  Probably.  Again, it's based on formulas I don't have in front of me.

if they did not know before they started shooting, recasting would be a big deal. Denzel (or a comprable star) may not be available and you would probably have to pay the actor being replaced IN FULL.  And Nic Cage deservedly makes a big salary.  Not to mention the delays, etc.  It would cost millions easily. 

The question is, how much does the controversy cost them at the box office?  It's like insurance - they've got tables for everything.

Paramount has another black person/white actor film coming soon...with Angelina Jolie.  Although, as has been noted on this board, she look like she got something soulful in her family tree.

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Re: Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2006, 05:55:14 pm »
I wouldn't describe this as controversial.

Hollywood has a long track record of removing us from stories or replacing us in them with whites. Some of it is surely based on Reggie's bean-counter models but a great deal of it is based on something ugly and old.

We spend a lot of money on movies. If we stop spending it on movies that remove us from the tapestry or, better yet, start spending on those films that manage to get made by folks who try to get these things right, you will see the same sort of turnaround that provided us with Denzel and Sidney and Morgan and Angela and the rest.

Money talks.

Soon you will come to know. When the bullet hits the bone.

michaelintp

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Re: Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center
« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2006, 06:11:33 pm »
I haven't seen the film and I hate people who talk about things they haven't seen.

I also love Oliver Stone...his films inspire me and he's always been nice to me when we've met.

But could Denzel have been great in the role wiht no substanial loss of box office clout?  Yes.  And I love Nic Cage.

The arguement against black actors is usually "they are not big stars internationally" so they don't cast them in movies that will make them international stars.

Denzel's home video clout is very powerful - enough to balance out possible (and I mean only possible) weakness overseas?  Probably.  Again, it's based on formulas I don't have in front of me.

if they did not know before they started shooting, recasting would be a big deal. Denzel (or a comprable star) may not be available and you would probably have to pay the actor being replaced IN FULL.  And Nic Cage deservedly makes a big salary.  Not to mention the delays, etc.  It would cost millions easily. 

The question is, how much does the controversy cost them at the box office?  It's like insurance - they've got tables for everything.

Paramount has another black person/white actor film coming soon...with Angelina Jolie.  Although, as has been noted on this board, she look like she got something soulful in her family tree.

Hey Reginald, the only thing is, it turns out it is NOT the Nick Cage character we are talking about. The editors of the article admitted that was a mistake. Nick Cage was clearly the big name actor in the film.  The role the article mainly talks about is a pretty minor one in the film -- in terms of time on the screen.  The Jason Thomas (the real name of the hero) character is not even the main rescuer in the film -- he is a second one who sometimes appeared with the more featured rescuer.  So we are not talkin' about a Denzel Washington here to replace a Nick Cage.  We are talking about a lesser known black actor to replace a lesser known white actor in a relatively minor role.  So ...

1. The replace the big name actor issue vanishes.
2. The international box office draw issue vanishes.

Given what you've said as the main concerns ... I just don't get it.  Don't get why they didn't make the change ... unless it was just due to the delay on the production timeline that it would cause.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 09:36:33 am by michaelintp »

michaelintp

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Re: Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2006, 09:39:22 am »
I wouldn't describe this as controversial.

Hollywood has a long track record of removing us from stories or replacing us in them with whites. Some of it is surely based on Reggie's bean-counter models but a great deal of it is based on something ugly and old.

We spend a lot of money on movies. If we stop spending it on movies that remove us from the tapestry or, better yet, start spending on those films that manage to get made by folks who try to get these things right, you will see the same sort of turnaround that provided us with Denzel and Sidney and Morgan and Angela and the rest.

Money talks.

I could not agree with you more, Geoff!   ;)

The idea of "changing the race" of a character really rubs me the wrong way.  There is something very offensive in it.  Reminds me of the early 1960s, when people would say, "I have nothing against Negroes, I just don't want them moving into my neighborhood because of the effect on my property values."  Some of those folks may have honestly been bean counters, but others were clearly racist -- and the fact that the amount of "beans" (i.e. revenue or property value) is affected by the race of the actors (or homeowners) can ONLY be explained by ONE factor -- RACISM. 

In that regard I find it interesting that Reginald points to this as a problem of the international market more than the domestic U.S. market. 

As to this film, another thing that really bothers me is that it was a very powerful and good movie, that people should see.  It would have been even better had the casting been done property with the African-American rescuer -- as doing so would have even more strongly reinforced the message of the film. This doesn't look like a case where casting of a white actor was done intentionally -- it was a screw up -- but I'm having some trouble excusing it if there was ANY way it could have been corrected.
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 09:43:13 am by michaelintp »

Offline stanleyballard

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Re: Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center
« Reply #7 on: August 24, 2006, 07:24:29 am »
Not surprised.  Much of American history has been white washed and it is no big news story that Blacks make up a large # of people in the armed forces and as fireman, police officers, etc.  Race plays a part in so much of America that is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face if one ignores it.

Regularly support independent films and big budget films with Blacks as Directors, Actors, Producers to counter act this type of treatment.  Spike Lee has some of the best work in the last 10 to 15 years and he is a pioneer.

Offline True Father 7

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Re: Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2006, 08:32:29 am »
hey, we got Harvey Dent in the first Batman, Kingpin, a catwoman, Nick Fury in the Ultimates and Zodiac in the new Masters of the Universe series.

But for real, I rather have Jesus, Moses, Cleopatra and Imhotep.
"Don't count the days, make the days count"-Muhammad Ali

Offline Hulkster

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Re: Unthinkable Racism in Olive Stone's World Trade Center
« Reply #9 on: August 28, 2006, 08:05:38 am »
Now John Byrne led the crying over black actors playing traditionally white fictional characters.  I'm curious as to whether he will be consistant and cry just as loud about this, especially since real life people are being portrayed.  He complained about Jessica Alba playing Sue Storm.  I wonder if he will complain about Angelina Jolie playing Mariane Pearl.