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[COMMENTARY] Spielberg Supports Pan-Asian Casting in "Memoirs of a Geisha")

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  • madchinaman
    Pan-Asian doesn t mean prejudiced http://www.calendarlive.com/printedition/calendar/suncal/cl-ca- pulloutletter20mar20,2,3450740.story Re Bruce Wallace s The
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 20, 2005
      Pan-Asian doesn't mean prejudiced
      http://www.calendarlive.com/printedition/calendar/suncal/cl-ca-
      pulloutletter20mar20,2,3450740.story


      Re Bruce Wallace's "The Geisha, in Translation" (March 6): Oscar-
      winning English actress Vivien Leigh so convincingly consumed the
      role of Southern belle Scarlett O'Hara that "Gone With the Wind"
      remains an enduring classic to this day. Linda Hunt won an Oscar for
      portraying an Indonesian man in "The Year of Living Dangerously," as
      did American Gwyneth Paltrow for playing an Englishwoman
      in "Shakespeare in Love." Liam Neeson earned an Academy Award
      nomination for his portrayal of German businessman Oskar Schindler,
      and Russell Crowe grabbed an Oscar for playing a Roman general. The
      list of nontraditional casting choices is endless.

      Is the Los Angeles Times applying a new standard of casting
      for "Memoirs of a Geisha" that doesn't seem to apply to any other
      film?

      Times staff writer Wallace [seems to imply] that when it comes to
      roles in our movie, only a Japanese actor should be allowed to bring
      these characters to life.

      Did the troubled history between Japan and the United States prevent
      American author Arthur Golden from creating one of the great,
      intrinsically Japanese love stories of modern times? Ziyi Zhang is
      one of the most popular actresses working today. In addition to her
      many accomplishments, she was previously cast by legendary Japanese
      director Seijun Suzuki in "Raccoon Palace." Should the historical
      turbulence between China and Japan prevent her from being cast in
      roles she completely commands with elegance, talent and grace?

      Casting a film should never be subject to a political litmus test.
      Isn't there already enough prejudice in the world? Films such
      as "Memoirs of a Geisha" allow audiences to travel across borders
      and peek behind cultural curtains to discover the universality of
      human emotions.

      Instead of judging this fictional film on its artistic merits and
      waiting to see the performances of its acclaimed international cast,
      Mr. Wallace seems to have decided to argue for a new standard that
      would create a chilling effect on nontraditional casting choices. As
      producers, we categorically reject the ignorance and insensitivity
      that would lead to such cultural censorship.

      As our director, Rob Marshall, recounted in your story, our film is
      not a documentary. But even though our story is fiction, it is
      inspired by a real time and place. Accordingly, we have been very
      mindful of the many cultural sensitivities that have faced us, and
      have applied years of research, many experts and a great deal of
      respect to the task of honoring another culture. However, the
      creative process of casting has traditionally allowed filmmakers the
      freedom to choose the most talented, skilled and renowned actors for
      each role.

      Criticizing a film because of an actor's birthplace or race is as
      ugly as it is wrong. When audiences finally see "Memoirs of a
      Geisha," they will be captivated by the amazing performers who have
      respectfully and lovingly brought this forgotten world and epic love
      story to life.

      Lucy Fisher, Douglas Wick and Steven Spielberg / Culver City
      Fisher, Wick and Spielberg are the producers of "Memoirs of a
      Geisha."
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