Scene City: Helen Mirren, Chris Tucker and Allison Williams Talk About Race at SAG-Aftra Dinner

This post was originally published on this site
Scene City

Parker Posey couldn’t recall the last time she worked opposite a black or minority actor. “Isn’t that terrible?” she said.

Neither could Bob Balaban. “I do work with a lot of white people,” he said.

Helen Mirren could, but it “was five or 10 years ago,” on a Lee Daniels movie, “Shadowboxer.” (Actually, it was 11 years.)

Race was the topic of conversation at a dinner party Wednesday night, hosted by SAG-Aftra, the actors’ union, that honored David O. Russell and the Ghetto Film School.

The Ghetto Film School started in 2000 as an after-school program in the South Bronx to introduce and mentor minority children in the craft of filmmaking. Since then, it has opened a high school and roped in many well-heeled board members, among them James Murdoch of 21st Century Fox; Rachael Horovitz, a producer of “Moneyball”; and Mr. Russell, the director of “Joy” and “American Hustle.”

A diverse group of actors and Hollywood insiders gathered for cocktails at 11 Howard, a new hotel and lounge by Aby Rosen, chatting freely about race and posing for pictures.

“Let’s do this,” Mr. Russell boomed, as photographers descended and the director gave a signal to his celebrity attendees that it was time for a group shot.

“It’s like high school,” the manager Jason Weinberg said, as Allison Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Bennett, Deborah Harry and other famous faces huddled around Mr. Russell.

It’s a far cry from the early days of the film school, when Mr. Russell could barely get anyone in the industry interested in it. “People were like, ‘Yeah? Really?’” he said, feigning indifference.

So the industry appears to be changing, in no small part because of this year’s #OscarsSoWhite.

Around 8, guests moved into a narrow dining room on the second floor, where a raw salmon appetizer was served and a student from the school, Andrew Grell, 19, talked about the importance of mentorship. “You should have called me,” Ms. Goldberg shouted. “I’m cheap and I’m easy.”

Mr. Russell spoke, too, commending the founder, Joe Hall, for his leadership in growing the school. He was also amazed by how much past students had grown. “I see these people and I say, ‘When did I meet you?’ And I expect them to say four years ago, and they say 15. And I go, ‘How could I be that old?’”

As a thyme-flavored sorbet was served for dessert, guests began moving around the table. Mr. Balaban stood by the windows gabbing with Christian Slater. Ms. Williams was nearby, accepting congratulations for the last episode of “Girls,” which focused on her character.

A few feet away were Ms. Goldberg and Chris Tucker. Ms. Goldberg said she didn’t think there was a conscious decision to exclude minority actors in Hollywood. “It’s not deliberate,” she said. “People cast what they know.”

Still, she said it was depressing that so many great films have excluded her and other black actors. “The Coen brothers aren’t calling me,” she said, laughing.

And the problems are even worse behind the camera, Ms. Mirren said, pointing out that she rarely meets black or Asian crew members, and — in a 50-year film career, with more than 60 movies under her belt — is working with a female cinematographer for only the second time.

“I do feel the dam is breaking,” Ms. Mirren said. “I might be wrong. It should have happened 30 years ago, but I do feel it’s happening.”

Photo by GabboT

About The Author

Leave a reply