Posted on 2.4.16, or 5 and 1/3 years ago: Last weekend The Daily Beast‘s Jen Yamato actually tried to hold Joel and Ethan Coen‘s feet to the fire over the lack of diversity in the casting of Hail, Caesar!
Apparently Yamato was not doing a put-on interview; she apparently meant every word. Kudos to the Coens for shutting her down and calling her question “idiotic.” The exchange was posted in a 2.3 Daily Beast piece:
The “overwhelming whiteness” of the casting in Hail, Casear! “could conceivably be explained away by pointing to the milieu of Tinseltown circa the 1950s, when the industry’s racial demographic was far less diverse than it is today,” Yamato writes. [Wells interjection: Hollywood was “less diverse” in the early 1950s than it is today? In the waning days of the Truman administration there were no minorities cast in mainstream films except in a spotty, token, peripheral fashion — cooks, maids, butlers, field hands, coat-check girls.]
Back to Yamato: “I asked the Coens to respond to criticisms that there aren’t more minority characters in the film. In other words, why is #HailCaesarSoWhite?”
“’Why would there be [more minority characters]?’ countered Joel Coen. ‘I don’t understand the question. No…I understand that you’re asking the question, [but] I don’t understand where the question comes from. Not why people want more diversity, [but] why they would single out a particular movie and say, ‘Why aren’t there black or Chinese or Martians in this movie? What’s going on?’ That’s the question I don’t understand. The person who asks that question has to come in the room and explain it to me.”
Yamato asked, “As filmmakers, is it important or not important to consciously factor in concerns like diversity?”
“’Not in the least!’ Ethan answered. ‘It’s important to tell the story you’re telling in the right way, which might involve black people or people of whatever heritage or ethnicity…or it might not.’
“It’s an absolute, absurd misunderstanding of how things get made to single out any particular story and say, ‘Why isn’t this, that or the other thing [included]?’’ added Joel. ‘It’s a fundamental misunderstanding of how stories are written. So you have to start there and say, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about.’
“He continued: “You don’t sit down and write a story and say, ‘I’m going to write a story that involves four black people, three Jews, and a dog’…right? That’s not how stories get written. If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand anything about how stories get written and you don’t realize that the question you’re asking is idiotic.
“’It’s not an illegitimate thing to say there should be more diversity in an industry,’ concluded Joel. ‘But that’s not what that question is about. That question is about something else.'”