Thandie Newton has revealed that she almost joined the ‘Charlie’s Angels‘ family…but walked away when she asked to use the role to push harmful stereotypes.
Stereotypes, designed to denigrate and humiliate black women.
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Ms. Newton sat down with ‘Vulture’ to discuss her career at length and detail her upsetting journey in Hollywood. Upsetting, as her experience – though celebrated and impactful- is somewhat marred by the fact that she was raped by the white director John Duigan and missed out on major roles because she refused to reinforce stereotypes.
One of these roles was a part in the first ‘Charlie’s Angels‘ reboot.
When I look at my career and see how affected it was by my speaking out about sexual abuse in the industry, it was massively affected in two ways. One, because I was dealing with my trauma, and talk about being in a triggering environment, right? Also, I’d come across people that were doing the same shit, and so I would challenge them, or want to get out of it, or not want to work with people. One of the biggest movies I didn’t end up doing was because the director said to me, “I can’t wait for this. The first shot is going to be … You’re going to think it’s like yellow lines down a road, and you pull back and you realize it’s the stitching, because the denim is so tight on your ass it’s going to look like tarmac.” I was like, “Oh, I don’t think we’re going to go down this road together.”
Then the head of the studio — I had a meeting with her, and she said, “Look, I don’t mean to be politically incorrect, but the character as written and you playing the role, I just feel like we’ve got to make sure that it’s believable.” I was like, “What do you mean? What changes would you have to make?” She’s like, “Well, you know, the character, as written, she’s been to university and is educated.” I’m like, “I’ve been to university. I went to Cambridge.” She went, “Yeah, but you’re different.” She’s like, “Maybe there could be a scene where you’re in a bar and she gets up on a table and starts shaking her booty.” She’s basically reeling off these stereotypes of how to be more convincing as a Black character. Everything she said, I was like, “Nah, I wouldn’t do that.” She’s like, “Yeah, but you’re different. You’re different.” That was Amy Pascal.In a statement, Pascal said she was “horrified to hear” Newton’s description of their meeting. “While I take her words seriously, I have no recollection of the events she describes, nor do any of her representatives who were present at that casting session,” she said, adding, “I’ve long considered Thandie a friend; I’m thankful that I’ve had the chance to make movies with her; and I hope to work with her again in the future.” That’s not really a surprise,In 2015, Pascal, the former head of Sony Pictures, was fired after the Sony email hack revealed numerous embarrassing emails, including exchanges with fellow mega-producer Scott Rudin where they speculated on Barack Obama’s movie taste, wondering if he preferred those starring Black people, like Django Unchained and Think Like a Man. is it? Let’s face it: I didn’t do the movie as a result.
What was the movie?
Charlie’s Angels.Starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu (who went on to play the role Newton turned down), Charlie’s Angels (2000) is an action comedy directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol, also known as McG, and a reboot of the hit TV series that first aired in the ’70s. It was a big deal for me. Vogue had called to ask us to be on the cover, the three of us. But I just couldn’t do it. I felt scared. Did I feel scared? That’s not true. Look, no one was ever going to sexually abuse me again. But I didn’t want to be put in a position where I was objectified. That just didn’t feel good. This is a long time ago anyway, and all those girls are brilliant. But if that was me now, I’d want to disrupt rather than run away. I think that’s probably the change in me.
I’m a Black girl, and I absolutely [felt like I was] being passed around. Being Black is important. Because certainly at the beginning of my career, when it was just, like, me and Halle Berry in our age group going up for every role: “Oh, this is novel. This is a little quick flash in the pan. We’ll let you come in for a minute.
On why she is afraid of her ‘Mission Impossible’ star Tom Cruise:
I was so scared of Tom. He was a very dominant individual. He tries superhard to be a nice person. But the pressure. He takes on a lot. And I think he has this sense that only he can do everything as best as it can be done. There was one time, we were doing this night scene, there were so many extras with pyrotechnics and you name it, and it was a scene with him and me on the balcony. And I don’t think it was a very well-written scene. I get angry with him. We’re frustrated with each other. And we’re looking out over Spain. It wasn’t going well. And John Woo, bless him, wasn’t there. He was downstairs looking at everything on a monitor. And John had made a decision at the beginning of the movie, unbeknownst certainly to me, that he didn’t speak English. Which I think was very helpful to him, but it was extremely unhelpful to the rest of us. So this scene was happening, and Tom was not happy with what I was doing because I had the shittiest lines.
And he gets so frustrated with having to try and explain that he goes, “Let me just — let’s just go do it. Let’s just rehearse on-camera.” So we rehearsed and they recorded it, and then he goes, “I’ll be you. You be me.” So we filmed the entire scene with me being him — because, believe me, I knew the lines by then — and him playing me. And it was the most unhelpful … I can’t think of anything less revealing. It just pushed me further into a place of terror and insecurity. It was a real shame. And bless him. And I really do mean bless him, because he was trying his damnedest.
I remember at the beginning of the night, seeing this slight red mark on his nose, and by the end of the night, I kid you not — this is how his metabolism is so fierce — he had a big whitehead where that red dot was. It would take anyone else 48 hours to manifest a zit. I saw it growing, and it was like the zit was me, just getting bigger and bigger. I remember calling Jonathan Demme. I described the night to him: “A nightmare.” As I was describing it, it was clear that I thought I was the big fucking problem. And Jonathan was like, “Thandie, shame on you for not backing yourself.” He was really sweet. And then Tom called and I thought, Oh, this is it. The apology. No, he was just like, “We’re going to reshoot this next week.” I’m like, “Way brilliant.” And the next time we shot it, I went in there and I just basically manifested all the — because I realized what he wanted. He just wanted this alpha bitch. And I did as best as I could. It’s not the best way to get the best work out of someone.
He wasn’t horrible. It was just — he was really stressed. I had the most extraordinary time, and you know who got me that role? Nicole Kidman. I’ve never actually outright asked her, but when your husband is like, “Who would you mind me pretending to shag for the next six months?” You know what I mean? It’s kind of nice if you can pick together. Nicole was a huge advocate for me.