September 26, 2013

Del Toro: Redface is "tradition"

The movie Jimmy P. is about to debut in the US. Indian Country Today is running interviews with the principals, including these two:

Benicio Del Toro: 'Native Americans Are the Real Americans'It's controversial when any non-Indian actor takes on the role of a Native American (as was discussed at length on this site this summer, with Johnny Depp playing Tonto). Was that an issue on your mind when you were considering Jimmy P.?

I am aware of the lack of representation of Native Americans in TV and movies, and when Arnaud Desplechin brought the idea of this movie to me, my instinctive reaction was: Why me? Because I really do believe that Native Americans could have played the part better, different… It could have been done. But there is a money issue in doing movies, and the fact that I have a career created the chance of the movie being made. That is a fact of life at this moment in time. So, when I read the story, I just felt it was a really strong story that should be out there. And, with all due respect, I dared to do it. There have been actors playing outside their groups; it is a tradition in acting. In the history of theater, even women were played by men.
Yeah...the tradition of men playing women is called sexism. The tradition of whites playing blacks is called blackface, aka racism. The tradition of whites--Rock Hudson, Burt Lancaster, Charles Bronson--playing Indians is called redface, also known as racism.

Not exactly something to crow about in the year 2013.

Del Toro the next Depp?

I'm not buying the money rationale either. Is this movie gonna be a blockbuster with Del Toro in the title role? I mean, a period piece about an Indian undergoing psychotherapy? Who wouldn't want to see two guys talking about their feelings for a couple of hours?

Yeah, I imagine this movie will make five or 10 times its cost with Del Toro in the lead. Much more than a Native actor would've drawn. All those bottom-line investors can retire with the bucks they rake in.


Disney used the same thinking when it paid Johnny Depp to play Tonto. The company probably will lose around $200 million for its horrible casting decision. So tell me why someone would risk their money on Del Toro? He's not a big box-office draw. His movies usually lose money domestically and only recoup their costs in foreign markets.

Director Talks About 'Jimmy P.: Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian'Did you come to make Jimmy P. because of a specific interest in Native issues?

It came from my interest in psychoanalysis, as I am a great reader of psychoanalytical books, as well as for the Native culture, which I discovered as an adolescent when I read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.

We have those childhood dreams—When I grow up I will be a cowboy, or an Indian. I wanted to become an Indian! Then, there is the issue of genocide, and the Native tragedy; my parents were activists, and followed the events in the media after the Alcatraz occupation. We were aware of what was going on.
Comment:  For more on Jimmy P., see What's Wrong with Del Toro and Depp and Negative Reviews of Jimmy P.

1 comment:

Rob said...

For more on Del Toro and Jimmy P., see:

Call Him 'Red Shield': Benicio Del Toro Interview, Part II