Hannah Jewell, a pop culture writer/columnist with the Washington Post, clearly angered Beirut screenwriter-producer Tony Gilroy the other day.
Jewell was asking him to respond to criticism from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee’s Abed Ayoub that Beirut is racist, and to answer why the film has no Lebanese characters. Jewell, who spent time in Lebanon, seems to be on the same page as film critic, cultural protectionist and ethnic representation advocate Jen Yamato.
Gilroy’s eyes start blinking like an Al Capone machine gun almost immediately. The REM is fucking fantastic. Watch the video for this aspect alone.
Wells to Gilroy: Don’t be angry, brah. I’m glad I saw this, by the way, because I’ll know in the future to cool my jets if I ever provoke this kind of blinking during a chat with you.
Gilroy: “To anyone who spent time in Beirut in its heyday, it has really become Paradise Lost. I understand the sorrow but there are no Lebanese characters in the film. There’s nobody in this film who is Lebanese. Everyone is an interloper. The PLO are invaders, the Americans are invaders, the Israelis are invaders. The movie’s about Jon Hamm‘s character. He’s an Arabist, he’s married to a Lebanese woman, sponsoring a Lebanese boy.”
Jewell: “Why is it called Beirut then?” Gilroy: “Because it’s a good title, and it takes place there. Nobody speaks Mandarin in Chinatown.”
Gilroy to Jewell: “Did you feel [the film] was anti-Arab?” Jewell: “I have to say that there were moments in it that felt like it was written in 1991, and that certain [aspects and observations] have become cliches in talking about Lebanon, and to make a movie about that country without some [natives] in it seems like a huge push.” Gilroy: “Story-telling, in a two-hour experience…everything takes a back seat to telling a good story. Would I be interested in inserting a scene that might satisfy…what would be the sequence or scene be that would satisfy this need and not stop [the movie] in its tracks…if we do a movie about Florida, should only Floridians play in it?…we have to protect everybody, you say…but the definition of who needs to be protected could be debated ad nauseum.”