Volume 93, Issue 36

Wednesday, November 3, 1999


Streep carries Music through griping end

Haunted Hill houses no real horror

Hollywood shows true colours in casting calls

Primus still epitome of Antipop

Hollywood shows true colours in casting calls

The announcement that actor Will Smith has decided to pull out of the planned biography of Muhammed Ali's life should have the boxing star's fans breathing a communal sigh of relief.

Smith, whose recent projects epitomize the very worst of big-budget Hollywood blockbusters, decided the project would not fit into his busy schedule.

What is most confusing about this whole scenario is that Smith was even considered for the project in the first place. After all, does he remotely resemble Ali, even in the slightest? It's true that Hollywood makeup can work miracles, but can foundation and silicone transform a six-foot-four beanpole into a smaller, muscular man with completely different facial features?

With his current position as "North America's favourite African-American entertainer," Smith is in much the same position Denzel Washington was a few years ago.

Is Smith an incredibly gifted and talented actor? Possibly. Is he good enough to make the stretch to portray Ali? No. Would he get the role if he wanted it? Sadly, yes.

Try to justify why better character actors like Cuba Gooding Jr. (the obvious choice), Ving Rhames and Michael Jai White were all knocked out of contention by the rail-thin Smith.

All three have portrayed athletes on screen and all have a physical build combined with the acting talent needed to deliver a convincing performance. It seems as if there is a trend in Hollywood to cement a list of a few top actors who are of a non-Caucasian ethnicity and draw from only that well whenever casting roles come up for their skin color.

Sounds hard to believe, until you try and think of how many names you can come up with when asked to name the best Spanish male actors out there today. Umm, lets see... Antonio Banderas, Lou Diamond Phillips and, umm... that guy that plays Don Johnson's sidekick on Nash Bridges - Cheech Marin. Are these the best actors that this particular ethnicity has to offer? The answer is a flat-out "No" (or in Banderas' case, an emphatic "HELL NO!").

Presently, Smith tops the African-American male category and is the first choice for the biggest and best roles pitched in Hollywood. It may not be right, ethical or fair, but the sad truth is this is the way the system works for non-Caucasian actors.

Even sadder, is the realization that it will continue to operate this way until movie moguls learn to see past the dollar signs that flash before their eyes and really look at the actors they cast for roles.

Saddest of all is that in the meantime, we're going to have to see a lot more of Will Smith.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999