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Woody Allen has had a weird career. Followed around by bizarre and sometimes troubling headlines and considered simultaneously a critic’s darling and a near habitual box office disappointment, he’s managed to consistently churn out headlines for fifty years. For the most part, he’s ignored them. Whether good or bad, he’s kept his head down and moved forward, but now and again, some of them have been too loud to ignore---like the charge that he doesn’t cast African-Americans. Let the record show Woody Allen himself doesn’t buy it.
Speaking to The New York Observer, Woody Allen told the outlet that he has no specific plans on hiring more people of color. It’s not because he has anything against it. It’s just that he churns out a script and then tries to find people who match the characters he writes, and because of the world he’s setting these movies in, most of those characters read as neurotic, upper class white people.
"You don’t hire people based on race. You hire people based on who is correct for the part. The implication is that I’m deliberately not hiring black actors, which is stupid. I cast only what’s right for the part. Race, friendship means nothing to me except who is right for the part."
It would be easy to get on a high horse and shred that quote, but there’s actually a lot more validity to it than you would initially think. Authenticity. That’s what everyone always preaches when it comes to books and movies. The characters and the larger world have to be authentic for it to work. Well, Woody Allen is a weirdo neurotic New Yorker who has spent his entire life with certain kinds of people. As he says in the article, he doesn’t really socialize with anyone. So, why would we want him to suddenly start writing African-Americans? That seems like a loss for everyone.
Instead of complaining about what types of movies Woody Allen writes, we should all be rooting for more opportunities for filmmakers who want to write diverse movies with eclectic casts. Fortunately, thanks to the wild, runaway success of films like The Best Man Holiday, studios should start getting more and more comfortable with working outside the box and letting different voices get heard. It’s in everyone’s best financial interest to be open and inclusive--- just not to shoehorn in that diversity into places where it doesn’t make sense.
As for Woody Allen himself, he’s 78-years-old and probably not changing. Personally, I’m fine with that too because the alternative scares the living hell out of me.