Last night John Oliver‘s Last Week Tonight ran a satirical video essay on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Clever and funny (“This guy is The Last Samurai?”), but it still sidesteps Ridley Scott‘s excerpted rationale about financing big-budget movies, to wit: “It’s hard to raise financing when my lead actor is Mohammed so-and-so from such-and-such.” The audience groaned at the Scott quote, but it is hard to raise financing without strong marquee names. The first difficulty with Exodus: Gods and Kings was the fact that it wasn’t very good, but it would have been far less annoying if a charismatic Middle-Eastern actor had played Ramses instead of Joel bane-of-my-existence Edgerton. And yet financiers would have certainly said “no” if Scott had insisted on casting a charismatic Middle-Eastern actor as Moses instead of Christian Bale.
That aside, all the observations in the Oliver essay are spot-on. I would only add that the cold calculation that led to Jake Gyllenhaal being cast as the lead in Prince of Persia (’10) was no more banal or laughable than the one that led to Tony Curtis starring in The Prince Who Was A Thief (’51) –i.e., “Yondah lies the castle of my foddah.”