Woody Allen, Noah Screenwriter Explain Omitting Black Actors

Woody Allen, Ari Handel

Woody Allen, Noah Screenwriter Explain Omitting Black Actors

"Race was not a consideration" for both filmmakers, whose new projects feature all-white casts.

Published April 16, 2014

Last year was a historic one for diversity in Hollywood, but not every filmmaker believes in adding color to their casts. Two high profile projects — the Biblical epic Noah and Woody Allen's Broadway adapation of his cinema hit Bullets Over Broadway — garnered some unwanted attention lately when it was pointed out that neither cast contains a single actor of color.

Noah, a fantastical reimagining of the story of Noah's ark, fails to include any non-white humans despite the diversity of its animal kingdom. Screenwriter Ari Handel, who wrote the script with director Darren Aronofsky, responded to the criticism on TheHighCalling.org by saying, “From the beginning, we were concerned about casting, the issue of race. What we realized is that this story is functioning at the level of myth, and as a mythical story, the race of the individuals doesn’t matter. They’re supposed to be stand-ins for all people. Either you end up with a Bennetton ad or the crew of the Starship Enterprise.”

He goes on to say, “You either try to put everything in there, which just calls attention to [race], or you just say, 'Let’s make that not a factor, because we’re trying to deal with [the] Everyman.'”

The implications in Handel's comments — that only white actors could represent the "Everyman" and that diversity on the screen would be a distraction — have ruffled more than a few feathers.

Equally incredulous is Woody Allen's omission of any Black actors from a Broadway rendition of his hit film Bullets Over Broadway, which includes a scene set in Harlem's Cotton Club.

“Casting was considering a big-name African-American actor for the play, but Woody passed because he just got the idea that a Black gangster wouldn’t be good," a source told the New York Daily News. "One man wasn’t asked back and then was told it was Woody who didn’t want any Black gangsters.”

A rep for the controversial director insisted to the Daily News that Allen didn’t cast based on race. “It has always been Woody Allen’s priority to cast the exact appropriate person for a role regardless of race, which has never been a consideration,” the rep said. Indeed, the number of actors of color in the entire canon of Allen's films could likely be counted on a single hand.

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(Photos from left:  Mike Coppola/Getty Images, Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Written by Evelyn Diaz


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