Joe Wright’s whimsical Pan didn’t do well when it hit theaters last year. Critics savaged it, for the most part. It has a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, and our own Greg Wakeman could only give it 2 stars out of 5. Audiences were curious, as the film did $35M in the U.S. and better overseas (to the tune of $93 million… very little of which came from China). But the film’s cast has issues with the movie, and the way that it has been perceived… and they are still wrestling with the truth of a difficult situation. Just ask Rooney Mara.
Mara is busy making the publicity rounds for Carol, a searing drama that earned the actress her second Oscar nomination. And yet, in an interview with The Telegraph, the actress still must answer questions about Pan, and the "whitewashing" claims that follow her role as Tiger Lily in the fantasy. Rooney Mara has been ahead of this discussion ever since she was cast in the part, and she continues to say that she hates the fact that the role has included her name in a racial controversy that has plagued this year’s Oscar campaign. Mara tells the Telegraph:
I really hate, hate, hate that I am on that side of the whitewashing conversation. I really do. I don’t ever want to be on that side of it again. I can understand why people were upset and frustrated.
What Rooney Mara is referring to is the controversy stemming from casting a white actress in a role that traditionally has gone to Native Americans. In a similar interview with Deadline, where Mara addressed the topic of "whitewashing," the actress added that the population in Joe Wright’s Neverland (as well as in J.M. Barrie’s book) were meant to be global citizens, not Native Americans, and so limiting the way that they could be portrayed on screen "curbs art and creativity." However, the actress did admit:
That being said, is there whitewashing in Hollywood? Absolutely, and I feel really bad and embarrassed to be a part of that.
The reviews that picked Joe Wright’s Pan apart rarely focused on the whitewashing of particular roles as the reason why the movie didn’t work. And Rooney Mara has done nothing to shy away from this conversation. As she says, there were two stages of disagreement: the first being when she was cast; and the second arriving when the movie came out. It’s clear that she and her director believe they were making an artistic decision when they cast Mara as Tiger Lily in this Peter Pan story, but I’m surprised, and I’m sure Mara is surprised as well, that she’s still answering for the role as she promotes Carol and prepares for the Academy Awards.
What do you think? Should Rooney Mara really be "embarrassed" for her portrayal of Tiger Lily putting her on the wrong side of the #OscarsSoWhite discussion? Or was she an actor trying a role because she liked the director and wanted to be part of his vision? Let us know your thoughts.