Is Hollywood ready to produce a BIG BUDGT Epic film starring mostly black people???

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Les Samuel, Jan 16, 2004.

  1. Les Samuel

    Les Samuel Stunt Coordinator

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    Recently I watched the trailer for the movie Troy starring Brad Pitt and it looked good especially some of the battle scenes, that's when it dawned on me that to date Hollywood has never produced an epic BIG BUDGET period film starring mostly black people or people of color. Over the course of the last five years Hollywood has produced, Troy, Master & Commander, Gladiator, The Last Sumurai and Lord of the Rings. ALL of these movies have an overwhelmingly caucasian cast starring. I think Hollywood is ready to produce an epic film on The Moors who conquered Spain and Italy. Or a Epic story about numerous Egyptian Wars, maybe a fictional tale about Ramses II and the Battle Quadesh that accurately depicts the people of that time.

    A good story is a good story and I believe people would go see an epic movie that doesn't have a majority of caucasian people starring. Let prominent directors such as Jonathan Mostow, Ridley Scott, David Tohy, and Antonie Fuqua have a crack at it. Let's see actors like Will Smith, Don Cheadle, Boris Kodjoe, Derek Luke, Sanaa Lathan, Roslyn Sanchez or Michelle Garcia star. Let's push some no name talents in the spotlight with a chance to shine on a grand scale.
     
  2. ToddP

    ToddP Stunt Coordinator

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    Not debating the point you're trying to make, but are you sure you want to include The Last Samurai in a group of movies you label as having "a majority of caucasian people starring". Obviously Tom Cruise was the star, but the vast majority of the film's cast (and most would argue the best performers) were asian.
     
  3. Chuck Mayer

    Chuck Mayer Lead Actor

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    Wasn't a Hannibal being planned?

    That would be perfect. As would some of your ideas...

    Take care,
    Chuck
     
  4. Les Samuel

    Les Samuel Stunt Coordinator

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    Todd

    Excellent observation. Bear in mind that although that film's cast was dominated by a different ethnicity, it was a movie produced by Hollywood that did not have a majority cast of either black people or people color, that is the reason why I included it. Most people don't think Asian when the term people of color is used.
     
  5. ToddP

    ToddP Stunt Coordinator

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    Les,

    I understood entirely what you were saying, and I agree with your point. However, you did specificly state "majority caucasian". Asians, though not considered "people of color", are certainly not caucasians and they are a minority. Not looking for a debate, I just thought your inclusion of TLS was a bit odd.

    On another note, I thought at one point I had heard something about a blockbuster epic type Cleopatra film being in the works. That could potentially fit the bill for what you're looking for.
     
  6. Evan M.

    Evan M. Supporting Actor

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    Oh boy, this could be a delicate thread.....

    To be honest I don't think it is Hollywood that is not ready to produce an "epic" starring mainly non-caucasion stars, I think it si the public that isn't ready. There is unfortunately tooooo many people out there that will simply not accept these movies. I know that is a strong statement but I think ultimately the public drives what is made and I think unfortunately the public is just not clammoring for these "epics". It is sad because with the amazing stories in African American history you would think that a ton of GOOD movies would be in the works but when they do come out the viewership unfortunately does not show up in great numbers. I for one would love to see these stories told on the big screen .
     
  7. Lew Crippen

    Lew Crippen Executive Producer

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    I have no idea of the budget (although it was not small), but Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had exclusively people of color (true, all Asians). While it was filmed in Mandarin (I think, could have been Cantonese), it really was a ‘Hollywood' oriented film. Chinese, especially Hong Kong Chinese, would not have needed the upfront exposition, their familiarity with the genre, making it unnecessary.

    I do understand your point Les, but at the end of the day a big-budget picture needs to be able to draw big box office numbers. Regrettably, I do not expect that the executives in charge of funding films will believe such a film to be a good investment. I’d expect for this to happen, someone would need to present a very good marketing plan that addressed the box office issue.
     
  8. ToddP

    ToddP Stunt Coordinator

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    As for Hannibal, it appears that Vin Diesel is starring. My hopes are not high.
     
  9. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    That does pretty much sum it up.
     
  10. Les Samuel

    Les Samuel Stunt Coordinator

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    Todd

    Point understood.

    EvanM



    It could be but hopefully level headed views will be posted here.

    I disagree with your statement about the public not being ready. I think it would draw major numbers just from a curiosity factor. You better believe if the movie is good word of mouth will spread. More than ever we are assimilating together. MTV used to be all white in it's inception but today it promotes varying degrees of ethnicity all the time. People are starting to whisper that Condoleezza Rice could one day, be president one day. M. Knight Shyamalan is making major strides in Hollywood and I am sure they'll give him whatever he wants.

    In 2004 we have a much larger number of black actors and actresses than we did say 10 years ago that white people, Asian, and Hispanic people can identify with. Again good story, good direction, good cast equals major box office moolah. I think the stereotype that the only film that stars someone of color will only reach 100M if it's a comedy or action film is just that a stereotype.
     
  11. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Interesting discussion.

    I simply wanted to add another example of what was (arguably) a "Hollywood epic" type of film with a primarily non-Caucasian cast, The Last Emperor. I have no idea what it cost to make, but I'd guess that it had a fair budget.

    Glory is a good example of an epic-style film with a cast featuring African-Americans but, again, I have no idea if it met the criteria for "big budget," whatever those are.
     
  12. Matt Pelham

    Matt Pelham Screenwriter

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    I don't think Les was trying to imply that those big budget epics should've had some black cast members, but that Hollywood is filming epics that require caucasian casts as opposed to black ones.

    Hell, I've been waiting since middle school for a good Nat Turner rebellion film, although I seriously doubt it will ever happen (at least not a large scale one, could you imagine?).
     
  13. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    Some other movies that I think prove your point are "The Color Purple" and one of my favorites, "Driving Miss Daisy". Yes, Jessica Tandy was white, but Morgan Freeman is obviously not. [​IMG] Neither of these were big budget, obviously, but they were all critically acclaimed and enjoyed by people across the color spectrum.

    What makes a movie good is story and depth, not the tag "big budget". If "big budget" is supposed to be so important, then I suggest that you consider "Waterworld", "Hudson Hawk", and "Cutthroat Island" to name a few. Having the tag "big budget" no longer seems so important, does it?
     
  14. Les Samuel

    Les Samuel Stunt Coordinator

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    John


    Why would a movie need special marketing because it has a mostly black cast? Treat it like any other movie and market it according to how the story is told and what it is about. Don't market it in a special category because it stars a mostly black cast. Because it has not happened yet I agree executives won't fund the film but are there any scripts out there? I am sure! Hire a writer to present you with ideas. It just has to be thought through.
     
  15. Alvin.G.

    Alvin.G. Stunt Coordinator

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    ditto

    "Is Hollywood ready to produce a BIG BUDGET EPIC film starring mostly black people?"

    What about minority and underrepresented peoples in general? I think there should be more movies cast with actors of any ethnicity---African, Asian, Latino, South American, Middle Eastern, Indian, Inuit, Polynesian---but also actors cast as gay, lesbian or bi characters. All to often, these roles are reduced to caricatures and stereotypes at the fringes of the story.

    As for "big budget epic films," Les, why necessarily those? Are you thinking of something along the scale of "Shaka Zulu"? I think what is difficult, especially for people who grew up in the United States, is that the history we are taught in schools is Eurocentric. Big budget epic films, such as those you have listed, tend to be historical and I think the American audience is unfamiliar and ignorant of the histories and stories of other cultures. Anything "epic" involving blacks is probably going to be about the Civil War (ie. Glory) or the civil rights movement (ie, X).

    All this being said, I agree with you Les. I would love to see any one of the ideas you mentioned made into the motion picture, but also as much as I would like to see the great histories of other peoples told on film.


    acg


    *Edited for content because I learnt how to speel in public school.
     
  16. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    Well, hopefully this doesn't turn into an overly defensive "WHAT?? I LIKE BLACK PEOPLE" type of thread. I hope that doesn't happen. I like the question.

    Is Hollywood ready? If you can convince someone at a studio that you can make Nat Turner's rebellion into a Oscar Grab late winter type of movie, then yeah, they're ready. They're very ready to make money, that's it. Splosions, baby, 'Splosions and stirring music and you got it. Hell, you could probably make an argument for the Matrix Trilogy. it's not necessarily much of one, since the lead actor, actress and main villain are all white guys, but the spiritual centers of the movie (morpheus and Oracle) and apparently the majority of the Zion population are predominantly black. So you could point to Matrix as proof that people are ready.

    It completely depends on the material being presented. The Moors? Yeah, you could do it. Big sweeping epic. Cleopatra remake? Hell yeah, you could do it, even though my thinking is that conventional wisdom says to cast a latina or an exotic looking white woman as Cleopatra. I don't agree, but that's how I see that going. Nat Turner slave rebellion? yeah, you could do it. You could pitch a thrilling, Great Escape type movie about Harriet Tubman if you wanted to.Like someone else said, Hannibal is supposed to be in production.

    I think it comes down to what conventions you can shoehorn into your particular story. Because then the color doesn't matter--audiences seem more willing to forgive as long as they're swept up in a story that's moving in a way they're used to.

    I think Hollywood's ready. I think audiences are ready. I don't know if the writers are ready, actually. there's really no reason none of those flicks can't be drawn up--but as far as I can tell, no one's drawing em up. No one seems to want to write those stories. I don't know why.
     
  17. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    The Moors were primarily Arabs and Cleopatra was a Macedonian Greek, by ancestry, who may, according to a single disputed and amibiguous bit of papyrus, have had an Ethoiopian great-grandmother.

    Therefore neither story would necessarily present enormous acting opportunitites for black actors.

    There are plenty of other stories that would and - if done well - would attract large audiences because people like good stories and they like having someone to root for.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  18. John_Berger

    John_Berger Cinematographer

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    You hit the nail square on the head.
     
  19. David Tolsky

    David Tolsky Supporting Actor

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    I like the question too.
    It would be nice to see a big time Hollywood film featuring the talents of today's excellent actors of color (there are so many of them). The Color Purple and Roots were both excellent but they both dated back to the time of slavery and were about being black. You might want to look at Malcolm X as being the last big budget movie featuring a majority of black actors. And what incredible performances by all actors involved. For my money, Denzel was robbed of an Oscar that year.
     
  20. Robert Anthony

    Robert Anthony Producer

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    Who won best actor that year? I forget.
     

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