June 14, 2012

Del Toro to play Native veteran

Benicio Del Toro Teams With Arnaud Desplechin For ‘Jimmy Picard’

By Mike FlemingBenicio del Toro has been set to star in Jimmy Picard, a drama that will be directed by Arnaud Desplechin. The project is adapted from Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian, by acclaimed ethnologist and psychologist Georges Devereux. It is the true story of a friendship between a Native American and a French psychoanalyst. The film will also star Mathieu Amalric and Gina McKee. Shooting begins June 18 in Michigan.

Del Toro plays the title character, a Plains Indian member of the Blackfeet nation who returns from the WWII battlefield and experiences various medical symptoms, none of which can be explained physically. He travels to the famed Winter Hospital in Topeka, Kansas, where he encounters Georges Devereux (Amalric), a French ethno-psychiatrist considered to have a strong understanding of the modern Native American. Through their sessions, the two men, foreign to themselves and to their country, become friends.
Comment:  Del Toro is the latest non-Native actor to engage in "redface" and take a role from a Native actor. Yippee.

His Wikipedia entry says:He is of Spanish descent through a Catalan paternal great-grandfather and a Basque maternal great-grandmother. He has Italian and Amerindian ancestry as well.Whatever amount of Native "blood" he has from his Puerto Rican ancestry, it's not enough for him to take a Native role. The role should go to a genuine Native actor.

On Facebook, someone said something about people who don't look Native still "walking the red road." To which I said:

I'm guessing Puerto Ricans like Del Toro don't look much like Blackfeet Indians, which is the tribe of his character Jimmy Picard. And since it's a WW II-era drama, Picard is that much more likely to be full- or half-blooded, not "white skinned."

More to the point, del Toro doesn't walk any red road that I know of. His looks are irrelevant because he doesn't fit the other criteria for being Native.

Most Latinos have some Native blood and are a tolerable second choice if a producer tries but can't find an acceptable Native actor. Most producers don't make the effort and simply cast whoever's convenient.

For more on casting issues, see How Hollywood Executives Think and Think Like a Man Shatters Hollywood Myths.

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