Nora Highland @ Oxford Film Festival

Scarlett Johansson as a transgender male in Rub & Tug. Emma Stone as Captain Allison Ng in Aloha. Matt Damon in The Great Wall. Scarlett Johansson as Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell. Ok, Scarlett Johansson gets herself in casting controversies. Hollywood has as long as it has existed whitewashed casting. Of late people have started to protest against this. So much so that Johansson dropped out of Rub & Tub. Don’t think that all underrepresented segments of the population have people going to bat for them. For instance, the gay community. A stat is shown at the beginning of the film that over 50 straight actors or actresses have been nominated for an Oscar for portraying a gay character while only 1 out gay person (Sir Ian McKellan) has been.

Here director Ryan Spahn has managed, under very tough circumstances, to make an original film about the subject. It was filmed during Covid using a computer. The film is an adaptation of a play of the same name.

Though it is very quirky it does get its message across. Queer people need to be portraying queer characters on stage and in films. Seems logical and yet it hasn’t been the case.

An iconic Broadway play is going to be revived. The casting of it is causing a few problems. We start off with the casting process. It is a very vulnerable situation.

The lead character is gay and yet the producer of the play does not want an out gay man cast in the part. He says that no one will believe them with a woman in the beginning of the play. Known Broadway actor Mark (Michael Hsu Rosen – from television’s Tiny Pretty Things) is having a Zoom chat with the play’s director, Linda (Marin Ireland – Hell or High Water, The Irishman), who wants him, but feels her hands are tied. Being a woman she has not had the same directing opportunities as males with half her experience and talent. As the conversation goes on both get angrier and angrier. It is not pretty.

Finally we end with an awards gala in which the straight actor (Henry Jenkinson – first film) who was eventually cast in the part wins an award as an ally of the gay community.

This film is sure to bring about discussion. Much needed conversations. Long overdue ones. How queer actors are rarely cast in roles which lead to them becoming stars and as such they do not have the power or bankability needed to be cast as leads in films. As such heterosexual actors reap the benefits of telling queer stories. Theatre is a little bit better in this regard with television and film lagging far behind.

The fight for true equality, for an equal opportunity at all roles is the goal. For people of colour, Asians and LGBTQ+ actors to tell their own stories.

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