Linda Hunt: When the Oscars rewarded an American actress for playing a Chinese-Australian man | United States
Javier Bardem is at the center of the latest Hollywood controversy due to the inappropriateness – in the eyes of some at least – of the Spanish actor playing a Cuban character, Desi Arnaz, in Be the Ricardosthe story of American comedian Lucille Ball and her husband and sitcom co-star i love lucy. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bardem played down the issue: “I’m an actor, and that’s what I do for a living: try to be people that I’m not,” the Oscar-winning actor said. Bardem also hinted at the problem based on “accents” – that there is generally no rage over English speakers who try a foreign language. “Where is this conversation with English speakers who do things like The last duel, where they were supposed to be French people in the Middle Ages? he wondered.
In the interview, Bardem joked about the prevailing debate over portrayal and casting: “We should all start not allowing anyone to play Hamlet unless they were born in Denmark.” The issue tends to crop up the most around awards season – the diversity issue has more or less ended the Golden Globes – and director Guy Nattiv’s decision to cast English actress Helen Mirren as the Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir recently made headlines. . Jewish actress Maureen Lipman slammed Mirren’s involvement in the film Golda a few weeks ago, stating that “the character’s Jewishness is so integral.”
“My opinion, and that is what it is, a simple opinion, is that if the character’s race, creed or gender determines or defines the portrayal, then the correct one – failing an umbrella [term] – ethnicity should be a priority”, The pianist the actor said Variety.
The days when a director had the ability to bend industry norms and cast an actor not just against race or creed, but also against gender, seems long gone, but that’s exactly what Peter Weir has made in 1982 when the man behind the camera on Dead Poets Society (1989) and The Truman Show (1998) flowed The Year of the Dangerous Lifea romantic tale about the overthrow of President Sukarno in Indonesia.
Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver were on hand, but Weir struggled to find an actor who could play photographer Billy Kwan, a charismatic character who would serve as the film’s moral compass. Weir had cast Australian dancer David Atkins, but a clash of personalities with Gibson caused him to leave the production after filming began. That’s when a member of the casting department suggested Linda Hunt.
“Sets were being built in Manila and time was running out,” Weir said in an interview with The New York Times in 2019. “The casting agent said he had a possible Billy Kwan called L. Hunt. Later it was revealed that she was female. was brilliant. Hunt, who had enjoyed a strong acting career up to that point but was far from a household name, was more surprised than anyone by the decision. “I didn’t quite understand why I I was there; I talked to the casting director about it and he just said, ‘That would be a role you would play as a man,'” he added. NCIS: Los Angeles star said The daily beast. “I said ‘Holy shit’ and laughed.”
Hunt attempted to change Weir’s mind but was unsuccessful. “Can you rewrite it for a woman?” the director remembers the actor asking. “I said it would change the whole story and there was silence,” he recalled. “’Could you play a man?’ I asked him and there was a long silence. “Only if you believe in me,” she replied. »
When Hunt went for the first screen test, they put a wig on him, a mustache, and put pieces of rubber over his eyes to make him look more oriental. She looked at herself in the mirror and said to herself, “Let’s take all this bullshit away and leave it to me.”
I didn’t try to impersonate a man; the movie wasn’t about that
Actress Linda Hunt
“I didn’t try to impersonate a man; the movie wasn’t about that,” Hunt told the New Strait Times in 2016. But she had to make the public believe she was a man. To achieve this, she cut her hair short and dyed it, and shaved her eyebrows. The result was so convincing that the waiters called her “sir” even when she was wearing a dress.
Hunt, who despite playing a Chinese-Australian in The Year of the Dangerous Life, is white and born in New Jersey in 1945, was diagnosed with pituitary dwarfism as a teenager, which made her teenage life difficult. “When I was growing up, especially during puberty in my teens, I was so miserable because I got so much teasing and meanness from my teenage cohorts,” she said. The daily beast. She first felt the call to star in a production of Peter Pan – a role traditionally played by women in theater – but due to producers’ reaction to her physical appearance, she decided to focus on putting on. on stage. “Until I got to New York and saw the stupidity of the idea. If it’s hard to become an actress, how is it for a woman to become a director?”
The Year of the Dangerous Life was Hunt’s first major film role after his debut in Robert Altman popeye, which was roundly panned by critics. So by 1982, Hunt’s extraordinary talent was a secret beyond Broadway theaters. After the film was released, it would never be a secret again. Audiences stayed in theaters until the credits to find out who the actor playing Billy Kwan was and were surprised when it was revealed to be a woman. “Linda Hunt, a New York stage actress who steps so fully into the role that it never crosses our minds that she’s not a man. That’s what a great acting game is.” actor, a magical transformation of one person into another,” wrote film critic Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun Hour: words that echo Bardem in The Hollywood Reporter. Her portrayal of Billy Kwan even won her the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1983.
Hunt’s performance as Kwan isn’t one of cinema’s greatest whitewashing moments – see John Wayne as Genghis Khan in The Conqueror or Mickey Rooney playing Mr Yunioshi in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – but in 2018 there was considerable backlash when an image of Hunt in The Year of the Dangerous Life was shown at the Oscars during a montage of past winners. Critics said his inclusion hurt what was a significant year for minority representation, explained teen vogue.
Despite the controversy, a few months after the gala, Weir recounted The New York Times that he didn’t regret the decision to cast Hunt. “The casting is fundamental and it should not be influenced by any trend.” Tell that to the Golden Globes.