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


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#1 of 126 Les Samuel

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Posted January 16 2004 - 03:48 AM

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 of 126 ToddP

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:01 AM

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 of 126 Chuck Mayer

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:11 AM

Wasn't a Hannibal being planned?

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

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Chuck
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#4 of 126 Les Samuel

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:26 AM

Quote:
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

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 of 126 ToddP

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:33 AM

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 of 126 Evan M.

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:41 AM

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 of 126 Lew Crippen

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:46 AM

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.
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#8 of 126 ToddP

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:47 AM

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

#9 of 126 John_Berger

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Posted January 16 2004 - 04:49 AM

Quote:
Master & Commander, Gladiator, The Last Sumurai and Lord of the Rings. ALL of these movies have an overwhelmingly caucasian cast starring.
Totally unfair analogy on almost all of these movies.

I've not seen "Master and Commander" is about a British frigate and a French warship. In that period of history the leaders and crew of European sea vessels were made up almost totally of caucasians.

"Gladiator" - same scenario. The Romans were almost completely caucasian, although I understand that that area of the world would have made non-caucasians in the Mediterranean area more prevalent.

"The Last Samurai" was already tackled by Todd.

"Lord of the Rings" was written that way. Blame Tolkein, not Hollywood. But even then, LotR was written to represent a section of the U.K. from a time in pre-history. There were no non-caucasians in England (if I remember my history) until at the very earliest the Roman invasion. I could be wrong on that, I'll admit.

Quote:
I think Hollywood is ready to produce an epic film on The Moors who conquered Spain and Italy.
In this current political climate with the situation in that area of the world? Are you kidding me? Posted Image

The problem is that this is a very, very difficult situation that you want to resolve. These movies will need to be acceptable by more than just minorities for Hollywood to perceive an acceptable return on investment, or else no one will want to fund it.

I really wish that I could explain further, but I've sat here for 30 minutes writing and rewriting why what you're saying is going to be very difficult to do. Unfortunately, I simply cannot come up with a method of discussion that will not piss off the hypersensitive or somehow unintentionally provide a seed to get this thread shut down.

Quote:
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.
That does pretty much sum it up.

#10 of 126 Les Samuel

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Posted January 16 2004 - 05:01 AM

Todd

Point understood.

EvanM

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


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 of 126 Angelo.M

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Posted January 16 2004 - 05:10 AM

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 of 126 Matt Pelham

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Posted January 16 2004 - 05:20 AM

Totally unfair analogy on almost all of these movies.


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 of 126 John_Berger

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Posted January 16 2004 - 05:21 AM

Quote:
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.
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. Posted Image 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 of 126 Les Samuel

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Posted January 16 2004 - 05:22 AM

John

Quote:
Totally unfair analogy on almost all of these movies.

I've not seen "Master and Commander" is about a British frigate and a French warship. In that period of history the leaders and crew of European sea vessels were made up almost totally of caucasians.

"Gladiator" - same scenario. The Romans were almost completely caucasian, although I understand that that area of the world would have made non-caucasians in the Mediterranean area more prevalent.

"The Last Samurai" was already tackled by Todd.

"Lord of the Rings" was written that way. Blame Tolkein, not Hollywood. But even then, LotR was written to represent a section of the U.K. from a time in pre-history. There were no non-caucasians in England (if I remember my history) until at the very earliest the Roman invasion. I could be wrong on that, I'll admit.



John no kidding about M&C, Gladiator, TLS and LOTR that was my point. I don't have any problems with the films as is. I am not asking that they should just shove people of color in there. I am wondering if Hollywood is ready to make Epics such as these that feature/stars black people or people of color.


Quote:
In this current political climate with the situation in that area of the world? Are you kidding me

John an epic tale about the Moors was not the only example that I used and even if I did. Most of these movies are balanced out with action, love stories, betrayal and guess what.........decent acting most times and well written stories. Get terrorism out of your mind. I disagree with the situation being difficult to resolve it just has to be thought through.

Quote:
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

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 of 126 Alvin.G.

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Posted January 16 2004 - 05:31 AM

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


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


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#16 of 126 Robert Anthony

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Posted January 16 2004 - 05:46 AM

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 of 126 Joseph DeMartino

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Posted January 16 2004 - 06:06 AM

Quote:
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.


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 of 126 John_Berger

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Posted January 16 2004 - 06:30 AM

Quote:
I am wondering if Hollywood is ready to make Epics such as these that feature/stars black people or people of color.
But why is it so important to you that such a movie be made? What is so special about a "big budget" movie? I would think that it's more important to have a "regular" movie that does well and is critically acclaimed, maybe even get a few Oscars, than to have "big budget" assigned to it.

Quote:
Get terrorism out of your mind.
I have no objection to any movie about the Moors. However, considering the flak that Hollywood got for "The Sum of All Fears" I question whether or not such a movie would be prudent in others' eyes. We're movie lovers. We look at these things differently than most of the public.

Quote:
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.
You hit the nail square on the head.

#19 of 126 David Tolsky

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Posted January 16 2004 - 06:33 AM

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 of 126 Robert Anthony

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Posted January 16 2004 - 06:49 AM

Who won best actor that year? I forget.


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