Chicken Run actress Julia Sawalha has claimed she’s being replaced in the upcoming sequel for sounding too old, despite never being given the opportunity to do a voice test.
Sawalha played Ginger in the original film, but that character, along with Mel Gibson’s Rocky, will now be voiced by someone else in Chicken Run 2. She went on to decry what she perceives to be the ageism driving the decision, saying:
“Let’s be frank, I feel I have been unfairly dismissed,” added Sawalha. “To say I am devastated and furious would be an understatement. I feel totally powerless, something in all of this doesn’t quite ring true. I trust my instincts and they are waving a red flag.”
It’s a surprising, rather unfortunate cloud over a sequel fans have waited two decades to see enter development. Ageism, beauty-ism, those typically sexist concerns have always been a pressure on women and are not concerns unique to the film industry, but it’s particularly acute.
That said, given Sawalha never had a voice test for the role, the justification used to replace her is baffling. If you’ve listened to the test she’s posted online, you can clearly hear there’s been almost no change in her voice. Even more befuddling (running out of ways to say baffling) is how the suits behind the decision thought they could get away with an excuse they palpably made up.
— Julia Sawalha (@JuliaSawalha1) July 9, 2020
Naturally, the real reason must have been even less palatable than the “too old” line they gave out. I suspect Julia Sawalha, a British character actress with little recognition in the United States, simply wasn’t a sexy enough name for the California bigwigs calling the shots on Chicken Run 2. One could play devil’s advocate and argue Netflix know something we don’t (in the case of Mel Gibson, we all know), but that doesn’t seem likely.
On the ageism double standard, look no further than Craig T. Nelson’s casting in Incredibles 2. The film picks up right where the first left off, but Mr. Incredible has aged every one of the interceding 14 years. No one can tell me with a straight face he passed the voice test. But then again, he’s not a woman, is he?