Monday, September 8, 2014

A Fisti Recast-athon!

Okay, let's go back in time to about a month ago. Fisti at A Fistful of Films posted his list of who he thinks are the ten most interesting actresses working right now. During the prologue, he mentioned that some of us might find his list "too white" because no woman of color made the cut, unless you count Marion Cotillard, at least partly because they aren't getting intriguing roles on a consistent basis. While this sentiment is true, a number of bloggers (myself included), chimed in with the names of women of color we found to be very interesting. We all agreed that there is no legitimate reason these women can't play many of the roles we associate with white actresses. This got Fisti's wheels turning. When they stopped, he had this brilliant idea. Let's take some iconic roles that were played by white women and recast them using women of color!

Why didn't I think of that?

Of course, he didn't want to go it alone so he created a! By now, you know those things come with rules. Here are his:

1)  Pick an OSCAR NOMINATED performance given by a white actress that didn't require a white actress (no biopics here, even though Todd Haynes taught us that you don't need to be the same race or gender to play a real life person).  This performance can come from ANY film year.

2)  Pick an actress of color who could have been a great fit for the role instead of the one cast.  Keep in mind the time of release and chose actresses who were working at that time.  So, in other words, don't select the role of Calla Mackie in 1968's Rachel, Rachel (played by Estelle Parsons) and suggest it be a great fit for Naomie Harris, because, well, she wasn't born for another eight years.

3)  Explain WHY that actress would have made a great fit.  Plead her case.  Let's tell those Hollywood casting directors what they're missing.

4)  Have your post up by Friday, September 26th.  I've giving you a little bit of time on this one, and by all means, do a BUNCH OF THEM!  Spread the word.  Invite any and all to the recast-athon and let's give these actresses a voice!  

5)  You can post a link to your post here in the comment section, PM me on Twitter (@fististhoughts) or email me (  You can use the banner I created above, or by all means use your own!

He set the deadline for September 29th, 2014.

Cool. I can handle this. As a matter of fact, I have nothing else to say, but let's do it...

Did I start with a bang, or what? Before you get your panties in a bunch, let me say this: I have nothing but the highest regard for Kathy Bates' Oscar winning performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990). It stands as one of the horror genre's best ever portrayals. However, the role didn't have to be played by a woman of a specific race. The simple fact of the matter is that people becoming obsessed with celebrities is a universal theme. Can't you just imagine Oprah terrorizing James Caan?

I know. When most people think Oprah, they think talk show host, billionaire, goddess to middle class women everywhere, yada yada. While all those things are true of her, the one thing that often gets left out is that she's actually a really good actress. Her work in Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013) was the best thing about that movie and had some talking about a possible Oscar nom. More telling are a pair of performances she gave back in the 80s. Her most famous role continues to be as Sofia in The Color Purple (1985). She was a physically domineering female, running roughshod over her husband and anyone else who got in her way. When he dared raise his hand to her, she put him in his place and let people know she'll "Kill him dead!" if he ever tried that again. A few years later, she played Mattie Michael in the TV mini-series The Women of Brewster Place (1989), adapted from a Gloria Naylor novel. Mattie Michael was the complete opposite of Sofia. She was a kind, nurturing soul, perhaps to a fault, as she totally spoiled her son by catering to his every whim and buying every word that came from his mouth. Annie Wilkes is a woman made up of both of those two extremes. She wants to pamper her favorite writer, but takes it to him when he wants to leave. By the time Misery came out, Oprah had already shown she could handle both of those things very well.

I'm fairly certain that a lot of you just said "Who?" The fact is Kimberly Elise is a fine actress that has been around for quite some time. However, like a lot of black women she's been pigeonholed into roles either requiring someone of her ethnicity or those in all black productions. She has occasionally shown up in mainstream fare like John Q (2002) as the wife of the titular character who was played by Denzel Washington and the remake of The Manchurian Candidate (2004), which also starred Denzel. More often she's shown up in "black" movies like Bishop T.D. Jakes' Women, Thou Art Loosed, and a pair of Tyler Perry offerings - Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005) and For Colored Girls (2010).  So what am I seeing?

Of course, Sandra Bullock was marvelous as Dr. Ryan Stone. In fact, I wrote at length about her performance in my review of Gravity. That said, I think Elise brings a lot to the table and could have pulled it off at least as well. Let's go back to those "black" movies I mentioned. In each of them, plus John Q and a few other productions, she plays a woman deeply troubled by what's going on at home. In a couple of cases, it's actually driving her insane and she's called on to behave hysterically. Sometimes, she even manages to persevere and come out of things better for having gone through them. Elise put her heart and soul in every performance and was usually the best thing about whatever she was in. What is Dr. Stone, but a woman going through a trying time? Her personal life is not all she hoped for and now things have gone horribly wrong at work to the point where her actual life is on the line. And yeah, she has a hysterical moment or two.

Oh, in case you can't actually see her in my "artsy" pic, here's what she actually looks like...

Let's move on.

In case you somehow don't recognize the face, and can't read the tiny print at the bottom of the pic to see who that is, it's Kerry Washington, star of TV's Scandal. In the actual movie, Almost Famous (2000), rock groupie/seductress Penny Lane was played in a wonderful Oscar nominated turn by Kate Hudson. Coincidentally, that same year Washington was making her big screen debut in a little seen film called Our Song. Her big break would come a year later when she had a fun supporting turn in Save the Last Dance. For most of you, she disappeared until showing up in Ray a few years later, then both of those awful Fantastic Four movies with The Last King of Scotland between them, then Django Unchained (2012), then Scandal. Lots of people don't even know she has a ton of other credits. But let's talk about why she could play Penny Lane.

Our first piece of evidence comes from The Last King of Scotland. She played the wife of powerful Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forest Whitaker, in an Oscar winning turn). There, she winds up in an affair with the young white doctor who has come to Uganda and inexplicably found himself as one of Amin's most trusted confidants. She proves to be a capable seductress. However, the role of Penny Lane calls for someone quite a bit more overt, a free spirit. She's done that, too. In the little seen (and underrated) Chris Rock vehicle I Think I Love My Wife (2007), Washington's feminine wiles are off the charts. She plays a woman who sets her sights on an old friend that just so happens to be married. She pulls out all the stops. And I didn't even mention that a big deal is made of the fact she's a huge music fan. It's quite easy to see this woman dazzling some poor teenage boy and a hard partying rock star. Neither William Miller nor Russell Hammond would know what hit them.


  1. Thank you so much for playing along Wendell! These are great choices. I really wish that Kerry Washington had the career she deserves. She's been one of my favorites since Save the Last Dance (where I even thought she should have been at least in the running for Oscar consideration) and I'm continually let down that she isn't given the roles she deserves. Mother and Child was a great step up (since it was a role that also didn't require her to be black) and a great performance. I hope that after Scandal, she's able to nab some interesting film roles.

    Your other two are also great. LOL, sometimes I feel like the only person who knows who Kimberly Elise is too! She's been exceptional in many films. First film I saw her in was Set it Off, and I've been intrigued by her ever since. I don't always fall for her theatrics, but she's had many softer moments that I think have really sold her power as an actress.

    I need to wrap my head around Oprah as Annie Wilkes. That is kind of a mind blower.

    Great job all the way around, and again...thank you so much for playing along!

    1. No problem. I enjoyed creating this post. It was a lot of fun. Glad to see the love for Washington and Elise. I know Oprah is a tough pick to get a handle on, but it sounds right to me. Thanks for hosting.

  2. Awesome post Wendell! I plan on playing along after my NYC trip this weekend, and I've already got a couple of ideas in mind. In fact, I was thinking of a particular actress of color for Gravity as well. I sure hope Kerry Washington got more TV roles now that she's become popular since 'Scandal.'

    1. Thanks. If you have someone else in mind foe "Gravity" I'd love to see who it is. Can't wait for your entry.

  3. Oprah in Misery... that in itself is frightening.

    Kerry Washington as Penny Lane... I'm for that. I like Kate Hudson in that role but Washington would've brought more soul into that. Plus, Washington is the better actress and has a way better career than Hudson.

    1. Yeah, Hudson was good but Washington has been more consistent over the years. Plus, she's awfully sexy.

  4. These are great, great picks. Oprah as Annie Wilkes is such a spirited choice. And I think Kerry Washington could've done amazing work as Penny Lane. Nice re-casting!

    1. Thsnks. Glad to see some support for the Oprah pick.

  5. Oh, these are wonderful! I especially love Washington for Hudson. I actually almost went with that one myself, weirdly enough.

    1. Thanks! That makes me feel better about the pick. It just makes so much sense to me.