Art and Experience: The Coen brothers are the latest of the Hollywood players to let their opinions be known about the lack of diversity in front of the lens, following the controversy when for a second year in a row, not one single actor of color received an Oscar nomination.
“Diversity’s important,” Joel Coen told the Daily Beast. “The Oscars are not that important” – arguing that the awards ceremony doesn’t “matter much from an economic point of view”.
His comments come in the wake of the Academy announcing a “sweeping series of substantive changes” following intense criticism over the lack of racial diversity in this year’s Oscar nominees. These included a commitment to double the number of women and ethnic minority members of the Academy by 2020.Joel and Ethan Coen’s new film Hail, Caesar! (out this Friday in the US), is a wry 1950s-set backstage Hollywood comedy that stars a bevy of A-list talent, including George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin, Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes – and notably, no major actors of color.
The Washington Post’s film critic Ann Hornaday addressed the film’s “pervasive whiteness”, asking in her otherwise favorable review: “In Hollywood, must ‘white’ always equal ‘universal?’”
Asked by the Daily Beast’s Jen Yamato to respond to the criticism leveled at the film’s casting, Joel said: “It’s an absolute, absurd misunderstanding of how things get made to single out any particular story and say, ‘Why aren’t there this, that, or the other thing? It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how stories are written. So you have to start there and say, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
“You don’t sit down and write a story and say, ‘I’m going to write a story that involves four black people, three Jews, and a dog’ — right?” Joel continued. “If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand anything about how stories get written and you don’t realize that the question you’re asking is idiotic. It’s not an illegitimate thing to say there should be more diversity in an industry. But that’s not what that question is about. That question is about something else.”
Ethan concurred, adding: “It’s important to tell the story you’re telling in the right way, which might involve black people or people of whatever heritage or ethnicity – or it might not.”
The Coens, having earned four Oscars and 10 nominations together, are up this year for their Bridge of Spies original screenplay.
Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith and Tyrese Gibson are among the African American stars to have signaled they would not be attending this year’s ceremony or to have called for a boycott.
Source: The Gaurdian