Yet another Blue on Blue incident, as Lee Daniels, The Butler’s director attacks Hollywood racism, claiming, “Hollywood would not allow me to make a black drama:”
The director claims he met resistance to the film’s financing, in part, based on the notion that “black” films don’t sell in the modern marketplace.
It’s bull … that our movies don’t make money,” he said, then added pointedly that he thought industry types didn’t protest the point for reasons of cowardice and self-protection. “It’s politically incorrect to scream racism at the studios in Hollywood. People fear for their jobs,” he said.
Daniels felt insulted that Hollywood suits could dictate how much money he would need for his film given his track record. Left unsaid is that some of the biggest, most respected names in Hollywood struggle to get their films produced. Even Steven Spielberg said his Oscar-winning Lincoln almost didn’t make the big screen due to the new challenges facing dramatic film productions.
Perhaps if Daniels had decided to make a film about Alfred the Butler, he might have had a chance attracting the interest of Hollywood’s studios. As producer Lynda Obst wrote in recent book Sleepless in Hollywood, historically-themed movies (perhaps with the exception of explosion-heavy World War II movies) are exceedingly difficult to launch in what she calls “The New Abnormal” of postmodern Hollywood. In fact, as Obst noted, anything that doesn’t have the following in its title or cast will be an uphill struggle to get made in 21st century Hollywood:
- Star Trek
- Star Wars
- James Bond
- Mission: Impossible
- The Avengers (and/or their individual superheroes)
In other words, Hollywood wants big budget comic book or sci-fi franchises to help increase the odds that the $200 mil or more that they’re going to sink into a movie — plus advertising and distribution — will result in a hit, or at the least, avoid becoming a spectacular, Heaven’s Gate-level studio-destroying bomb. This is a very different — and as Spielberg pointed out, an increasingly high risk model for the studios. (Witness all of the implosions this summer, perhaps a billion dollars’ worth.)
In the old days, each year Hollywood studios would make one or two zillion dollar spectacles (think David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago, Darryl Zanuck’s The Longest Day, or Kubrick’s Spartacus), lots of midrange medium budget quality productions, and plenty of cheapies. Today, as Obst writes, Hollywood films come in two, exceedingly schizophrenic, flavors. On the high-end, Hollywood produces superhero, science fiction and action films, typically part of a franchise such as the Batman, Superman, Star Trek and Avengers movies. And lots of low budget independent movies. Many of the latter are films that were independently funded as The Butler was, develop buzz, catch on as crowd favorites at a film festival like Sundance, and then Hollywood picks up the distribution to urban art theaters, cable TV, and DVD.
But if The Butler’s director wants to insist to the world that the town that went all-in to elect Barack Obama, and made superstars of Will Smith, Bill Cosby, Denzel Washington, Eddie Murphy, Sidney Poitier, Halle Berry and other black actors and actresses is a hot bed of racism, as veteran screenwriter William Goldman once wrote, have fun storming the castle.
Or as Roger L. Simon writes today in his PJM column, “The race card is a perfect example of this division and why this movement should be extinguished. Anybody who plays the race card in our country today is less than pond scum. It has become the 21st century equivalent of accusing someone of witchcraft in seventeenth century Salem. Anyone who uses the race card should be considered a pariah automatically. It’s almost always projection.”
Though upon further consideration, perhaps Daniels has a point. Until Hollywood solves not just its inherent racism, but stops giving a pass to Communism, totalitarianism, anti-Republicanism, domestic violence, and its hatred of its domestic audience (aka, oikophobia), then I’m prepared to boycott its product as it rolls off the assembly line. I think I’ll start with The Butler…
Related: “Reagan Biographer Blasts ‘The Butler’ for Maligning President’s Race Record;” its coverage of the JFK era also sounds rather shaky as well.