A South African actors' union is upset that Jennifer Hudson has been cast in the lead role of the upcoming biopic "Winnie" — about Winnie Mandela — ahead of local South African actresses. The film is being directed by veteran South African filmmaker Darrell J. Roodt and will be shot in the country, but some union members say casting a local actress would better honor Mandela's life. As threats of a boycott take hold, should filmmakers dump Hudson?
No. Films need big-name stars: Movies need star power to succeed, says Vuyo Sabani in South Africa's The Times. For instance, "Denzel Washington as a lead would generate more interest and revenue" than a local actor the world has never heard of. If South Africans insist that only our own actors be allowed to tell our stories, the world may never get to hear them.
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Only a South African can play this role: It was one thing when Morgan Freeman was cast as Nelson Mandela in "Invictus," but now a troubling pattern is emerging, says actor Florence Masebe, as quoted in the Guardian. "Why do Americans and foreigners play the roles we hold so dear?" Winnie Mandela was "the mother of the nation" and having anyone besides a South African assume her role is "so wrong."
"South African actors attack Hollywood casting of Mandelas"
What's all the fuss about? The attacks on Jennifer Hudson are sexist -- nobody complained when Freeman was picked for "Invictus," says Krystal Clark at ScreenCrave. The complaints are also "bogus and irrational" -- all movies call on actors of all nationalities and backgrounds. If Hollywood barred foreigners from playing Americans, "half of our acting community would disappear."
"Jennifer Hudson criticized for Mandela role"