Wednesday, 28 January 2015

And Gina Torres as Indiana Jones





A female Doctor. A black James Bond. Four female ghostbusters. And Chris Pratt as Indiana Jones.

One of these things is not like the other. Also, the first two haven’t happened yet. 

The last one is both a surprise and not a surprise. Remaking or rebooting Indiana Jones seems like a no-win situation; people love those movies and still watch them. Do they really need to capture a new audience when the films are already 80s action adventure pastiches of 30s movie serials?

Casting everyone’s new movie boyfriend, Chris Pratt, is probably the most obvious – and dull – choice that could have been made. His character of Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy is very Han Solo-esque, just a bit of a dick. And he’s just about to star in Jurassic World, another Spielberg franchise. It’s predictble and it’s probably the smartest and safest choice.

That’s what makes me excited about the new line-up for the next Ghostbusters film. If you’re going to remake something, go all the way. If you can’t get the originals back for a long-wondered-about third installment, start again. Be bold. Cast women.

But the Doctor has always been a man. But James Bond has always been white.

But the characters who fight ghosts with proton packs in New York City, they... see? Why not?

And you think the director of Bridesmaids teaming up with Melissa McCarthy for the third time and bringing along three Saturday Night Live alumni isn’t a really smart way to honour the original?

Theatre-makers both locally and internationally talk about gender and racial diversity on our stages. We talk about it a lot. We talk about systemic bias. We talk about colour-blind casting. We talk about casting white guys as the King of Siam.
 
We talk. A lot.

I don’t think the discussion happens in film as much. I certainly don’t see things changing on film very quickly. I think American television is getting much better at telling diverse stories. When Orange is the New Black won for Best Ensemble at the SAG awards this week, more non-white women took home SAG trophies in that one night than in the entire history of the awards before.

I think Australian television needs to look beyond its various shades of white, something we kept in mind during casting for Sonnigsburg.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences was criticised recently for it’s entirely white line-up for each of the four acting categories. Someone pointed out that the 1939 Oscars were more racially diverse, given Hattie McDaniel’s win for Gone with the Wind. 76 years later, we can still have years that seem like  throwback to a century ago.

Right now, it’s too early to tell what the new Ghostbusters is going to be like. There’s no point overthinking it. Bad enough judging a film by its trailer, let alone its casting announcement. Except, of course, that in comparison to Chris Pratt as Indiana Jones, four female ghostbusters is kind of revolutionary.

Film studios are very protective of their properties. They don’t like to take risks and there isn’t a lot of opportunity to mix it up when it comes to their big name franchises. There have been more men step foot on the moon than have played James Bond. In comparison, there have been more men play the Doctor than have been on the moon. Still, though – all white guys.

Stage gets to be a bit more daring. Indigenous Lear. Female Glengarry Glen Ross. Black, male Witch in Into the Woods. Because there’s always another chance to have a go. And yet, with all the productions of Hamlet I’ve ever seen – I still have yet to see a woman in the role.

Tom Baker joked about a female Doctor when he left the role in 1981, but only recently has it seemed like a possibility. The co-chair of Sony Pictures, Amy Pascal, is on record as wanting Idris Elba in the role ofJames Bond. And as I keep saying, these are your new “Ghostbusters”.


If Hollywood must keep mining their back catalogues and rebooting their franchises. If Bond gets to live to fight another day, if the Doctor regenerates forever, why not take a chance on who plays them next? If stage actors all want to play Hamlet, why not let all film actors strive to be James Bond?

And why not let Gina Torres play Indiana Jones? It's a gender-neutral name, after all.


* thanks for Jill Weinberger for the suggestion of Gina Torres as Indiana Jones. Follow Jill on Twitter.