You’d have to be pretty ignorant to not realize that Hollywood has long had a diversity issue, but there are still clear distinctions to be drawn between the more serious examples and a bunch of teenagers jumping online to demand Robert Downey Jr. be cancelled more than a decade after Tropic Thunder was released because they just found out he wore blackface, despite many of them never actually having seen the movie.
The conversation is back in a big way given the social unrest and protests that are happening all over the world, and the entertainment industry will no doubt end up taking a long hard look at itself when this is all over. Ben Affleck is the latest big name to find themselves in the firing line though, dating back to his Academy Award-winning true-life thriller Argo.
In a recent interview, veteran character actor Edward James Olmos was asked about the current political climate and Hollywood’s issues with diversity, and he didn’t hold back with his thoughts regarding Affleck’s decision to play the lead role of Tony Mendez.
“Ben Affleck played Tony Mendez. He should never have played Tony Mendez. He said, well, they wouldn’t have made the movie if I wasn’t playing the role. Bullsh*t. He was directing it, he wrote it. It won the best film of the year Academy Award, so what are you taking about? Tony Mendez was a Chicano, a Mexican American, born and raised in El Paso, Texas. Now, 99% of the people don’t even know that.”
Although you can understand the Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner star’s sentiments, Mendez himself admitted around the time of Argo’s release that he had no issue with being played on the big screen by Ben Affleck. The former CIA operative said that after losing his father at a young age, he never connected with Mexican-American culture or showed any interest in learning to speak Spanish, and didn’t even consider himself Hispanic.
Whitewashing may remain an issue in modern-day Hollywood, but if the subject of Argo himself doesn’t have an issue with being portrayed by an actor of a different heritage, then surely there are more recent egregious examples to be looked at than a movie that was released almost a decade ago.